It’s not that “responsibility” was ever a bad word. Rather, it was just so heavy, tired, and boring. Responsibility was wearing a sweater vest in a non-ironic way, eating the warm broccoli off the veggie tray in the corner and reminding us to floss. It was just so grown-up.
In fact, as a teenager the closest I cared to publicly align myself with responsibility was a Spider-Man t-shirt. After all, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I would take it if I could stick to walls and swing on webs through the city.
That isn’t to say that I wasn’t responsible. I had things that I needed to do and people counting on me to do them. I was in clubs and on committees. I had chores at home, pets to tend to and other things that promised to build so much character.
I had a job, and then another, and then another, all of which, apparently, expected me to show up at a set time with plans to be productive.
I didn’t consider such things to be responsibilities, but requirements that ranged from interesting and fun to necessary and, with respect to the chores and employment, evil. The relationship was symbiotic, in that the things I enjoyed were dependent upon those that I did not. It was the circle of teenage life in the 80s, complete with braces and a mullet—yes, even my own head was torn between the respectability of business and the promise of a party.
Of course, “party” was more or less sitting in front of a market for the better part of a Friday night hoping someone would be cool enough to take our hard-earned, underage money and buy us all the alcohol we could carry. There wasn’t anything responsible about any of it. I know that now.
Flash forward too many years later and my sweater vest collection is pretty impressive. I tend to eat the broccoli first off the veggie tray and I floss on occasion. I own several Spider-Man t-shirts, which isn’t ironic in any context.
I believe that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and that the power is in parenting. Now, my boys have responsibilities of their own, and they understand the meaning of each—even those that they don’t particularly like. We talk openly about benefits and consequences, the cause and effect of the things we need do and the subsequent why of it. Granted, it isn’t always easy, but talking to my kids about everything—the warnings, the lessons, the dangers, the goals and the dreams—that’s my job as a parent. That’s responsibility, and it starts with me.
Sometimes I just show them the mullet.
This post is in partnership with Responsibility.org (which is celebrating their 25th anniversary this month!) and the #TalkEarly campaign. Our collective mission is to eliminate drunk driving and speak to kids about underage drinking; also to promote responsible decision-making regarding the consumption of alcohol. It is a good cause, and while I am compensated as a #TalkEarly Ambassador, my opinions remain my own.
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.