Matthew Jelalian: Parenting and patriotism should share certain things in common

Matthew Jelalian: Parenting and patriotism should share certain things in common
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My son turned 6 months old not that long ago.

He’s huge, well past the 99th percentile in height and in the 90s for weight and head size too.

I’m sure I’m not the first to say it, but it is hard to really love a little flesh potato. For me, parenting started out as a responsibility and not an act of love. But that has changed as my son grows and I see more of his personality develop.

He’s super determined to do stuff by himself and has this cute angry face when he decides he’s going to try something. He loves walking. He can’t balance, but if you help him balance with your two index fingers, he’ll stand, walk and explore as long as you keep him from going sideways. This past Sunday, he attempted to climb the stairs. He only made it up one step, but he’s working on it.

I don’t know why he’s so motivated to do stuff on his own. All I know is that he’s a baby on the move.

Additionally, he isn’t shy, but prefers people watching to attention seeking. He has a gummy smile and loves to play with doorstops.

I love the crap out of him and hope he has the best life he can possibly have. I want him to grow up to be an independent and productive member of society rather than depending on others for support. I want a kid who is happy, healthy and on the giving end of charity rather than the receiving end.

For the next 18 years, it is legally and morally my responsibility to provide for him. And I’m happy to take on that responsibility.

It’s my job to provide him with food, water, medical care, a roof over his head, an education and a million other things he’ll need to reach adulthood. To be clear, that doesn’t make me a great parent. That doesn’t even make me a good parent. That just makes me a parent. Food, water education, shelter, and medical care are nothing more than minimum effort parenting.

It doesn’t mean people should write songs singing my praises or that I have the right to demand that he pay me back with perfect obedience and eternal gratitude.

This isn’t to say I’m some hippy dad who doesn’t expect anything from his kids. But I don’t expect constant back-patting from society either for doing my job. Whether he’s 6 months old, 16 years old or 36 years old, our job is to care for him in whatever capacity he needs at that point in his life. Sometimes it’ll be food and shelter and sometimes it’ll be solid parental advice.

I’ve thought about my role in his life quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, and I wonder if the same should be applied to Americans in general.

Hopefully we all recognize that parents should never stop being parents, much like we never stop being sons and daughters, or brothers and sisters, or cousins, or aunts and uncles. We have a familial responsibility and there’s no reason why those duties shouldn’t extend to spouses and their families as well. I’d argue those responsibilities should also extend to friends and neighbors to a certain extent.

There’s this theory called the Six Degrees of Separation. The idea behind it is that, with only six relationships, we can connect any two people. For example, my wife knows me, I know Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney knows President Thomas S Monson, President Monson knew President Gordon B Hinckley and President Hinckley knew Pope John Paul II. My wife is just five relationships or “degrees” away from Pope John Paul II.

She’s incidentally only three degrees from Vladimir Putin so I’d watch out for her.

In theory, this exercise can be done with any two people. Is it possible that the Six Degrees of Separation is a load of bunk? Sure. But that’s not the point. The point is we are all much more closely connected than we realize and that connection implies a certain amount of responsibility we should have for one another. That’s true on a global scale but that’s especially true on a national scale.

We go to church together, work together, pay taxes together and interact with each other in a million different ways. Maybe part of our patriotic duty should involve how we take care of each other and not just how we can make it on our own in the land of the free.

Right now, there are a thousand ways to give back to the country and our local community. The victims in Las Vegas need our help. We can donate blood, money and other resources to help them.

The people in Puerto Rico desperately need our help as well. Most of the country is without electricity and gas and they need food, water and medicine, all of which we could provide through our donations and service.

The people in Florida and Texas can still use help.

There’s Habitat for Humanity, Encircle and a variety of local groups trying to help people in our own state.

There are countless ways to help out the least fortunate in our own country and most of them don’t take much effort.

As Americans, the least we can do is put in a minimum amount of effort to help one another when we’re going through a time of need.

I don’t plan on being a helicopter parent and I don’t expect us to enter some socialist utopia that can’t really be achieved. But I will provide my child with the best life I can and I hope that we can all do our part to help out our fellow Americans. And it might be hard to help random people who you don’t know but if we define our patriotism partly as helping others, then we’ll more easily accept the reality that there is at least a bare minimum responsibility we should have to our fellow Americans.

And for that one person who gets offended because I specifically said we should help out Americans, no one is stopping you or anyone else from extending that help beyond the border as well.


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