We received another email survey about school re-opening from the superintendent this week. I dutifully opened it, read it, and then just as quickly closed it. My brain just shut down. Michelle and I have been debating our answers for the last four days. There’s no simple, easy, or right answer to the school question.
It was a stark reminder that being a parent is the hardest job. No training. No pay. Responsibilities that are never easily defined and always changing. So what do you do? I have no idea and that’s also parenting. The best you can do is be adaptable. Be ready to respond to a an unending, ever-changing flow of complicated circumstances. And keep the wine fridge stocked.
Cecilia is taking trombone lessons this summer and, unlike piano lessons, she’s mostly learning riffs and scales, not full songs. Like most kids, Cecilia likes to go fast. She likes piano pieces with speed and panache. Who can blame her? It’s easy to rush in. It feels good to start. But if you’re going quickly for the sake of speed (or to get that practice session done), you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to miss opportunities.
And listening to their lesson is a good reminder to myself. There is no prize for doing things first, the only thing that matters is doing them well. With the current state of society, there is no rush. One of my favorite things about the pandemic (can you have a favorite thing? is that strange?) is just seeing neighbors hanging out in their yards talking. Slowing down today can pay huge dividends. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. You actually go faster and better whether it’s learning the trombone, surviving the pandemic, or vacuuming glitter.
A month or so late, but we finally made it to the Cape. And the girls immediately set about trying to cram in all that missed time into eight hours. You’ve probably had these days with your kids where the time flew by as you hop, skipped, and jumped from one activity to the next. A day where you didn’t think about work, or your phone, or maybe even the virus for a bit. It’s wonderful…and completely exhausting.
I’ve mostly given up on the news. I’ll watch the local broadcast for the weather and the 1-800 Kars for Kids song and then give myself 30 seconds to glance the headlines to make sure the world isn’t ending (degrees of relativity with that one) and that’s it. Anything else and I start to spiral into a foul mood.
But it has raised an interesting question as a Dad: How much should we shelter our kids from the scariness of the world? How much should we protect them from knowing about the day-to-day events of the world that they can’t do anything about? Is it selfish and self-centered to let them be kids just a little longer?
Isn’t that part of the job description as parents? To shoulder the stress they have no business dealing with at this age.
Certainly they know the big picture. They know why we are wearing masks and staying home. We’ve talked about some of the social issues. They aren’t in a complete bubble and I think they know how fortunate and lucky they are.
But they are still kids. They shouldn’t have to carry this equally. That’s on us.
See what happens when you watch too much news….
Not our typical Fourth celebration. We missed the Cape. And the big seafood boil. Didn’t miss the traffic though or Dash losing his mind over the fireworks. We spent the day as a family. And you can be a family wherever you are and whatever you are doing. I hope everyone is safe and was able to spend the holiday with their own family or friends.
One thing that I really had to work on during homeschooling this spring and now, into the summer, is making sure I didn’t completely slip into a habit of constant negative feedback for the girls. We are around each other so much that if I stopped and recorded our ‘conversations’ they would mostly consist of me saying things like: Stop doing that. Don’t touch this. Turn off Netflix. Vacuum up the unicorn sprinkles. No. No. No.
The negativity comes from a good and well-meaning place (here is where Ce would roll her eyes). I want to keep them safe. I want to show them how to be better. I really want a clean floor.
But I realize the constant barrage can eventually flood their feedback systems and come out not as encouragement but nitpicking criticism. For all my good intentions, that is not the way to have a healthy relationship with kids.
So this Saturday, with Michelle away most of the day, I challenged myself to be more positive. Let the little things go. Find some Jedi ways to say “Yes” even when I really mean “No.” I needed to engage with the slime rather than try to hold it at arm’s length.
I still insisted on sweeping the floor. If you give glitter one inch….
After eleven Father’s Days, my one piece of advice to my fellow Dads is to embrace and accept that you are not in control anymore. It’s not that the kids have all the control, it’s more the fact that you now have other lives to care for beyond your own.
It’s both freeing and humbling. You no longer have to decide the priority of things. It’s not a choice. You ARE driving to dance practice. You ARE making the lunches. You ARE watching another episode of Full House (cut. it. out.)
Embrace it and enjoy it. It’s not changing anytime soon. Or ever. I imagine even after they graduate or move out. You are still on call.