The best example of what it means to be a parent: Every time I clip my fingernails I also clip the nails of my two sons.
The task encompasses the loss of autonomy and intimacy that characterizes being a parent. What was once a private act (my own nails) is now public (others' nails). Clipping nails, though, also takes in the pleasure and sense of accomplishment that having children produces. They seem to feel particularly close to me as I clip their nails. And I'm proud of my well-groomed children.
Clipping nails also serves as the perfect metaphor for parenting. Done well it creates a well-served child; done with too much zeal or sloppily it causes injury and pain.