The shot of summer late this week reminded everyone of two things: first, Dad’s rules on using the air conditioning and second, summer Dad camp is not that far away.
This year was the first where we didn’t sign up them up for camps and then tell them where they were going. We let them choose. This might have been a mistake. Turns out most kids have no idea how to make a decision.
What seems obvious to us, dinner, wardrobe, book to read next. Is an almost existential crises for them. How can they pick a summer camp when they can’t pick a cereal?
Turns out I vastly underestimating the amount of skill and experience in making decisions. Sure, most of the decisions we make as an adult mean nothing. Pick something and move on. But to kids it can be almost paralyzing. At least my kids.
This will be the summer of choice. Perhaps empowerment. Perhaps regret. But they will choose. They will learn. Life is a series of decisions. They will be prepared.
It was one of those roller coaster weeks the seemed to consist of only parental highs and lows. One hour you are crushing it on Dad cruise control. The next hour you’re in the gutter and feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough.
I’m lucky that neither Michelle nor I fall into the guilt trap together very often. We have each other to pull us out, but God bless single parents. But that guilt. It’s impossible to avoid all the time. You might feel it for what you’ve done as parents. For what you haven’t done as parents. For what you think maybe you could or should or need to have done.
Here’s the thing: the guilt doesn’t help. Easier to see when you’re not in the throes of it, but it doesn’t make you a better parent. It only makes you feel worse. If anything, it takes a toll on you that makes it harder for you to actually get yourself out of that emotional spiral.
This Dad and Mom gig is hard. You have screwed up before and will screw up again. There’s not a lot of room for guilt. We have to focus on what we can do now. What we can change now. What we can tell them now. Hint: I love you, I support you, I’m here to help you.
That’s it. And it’s more than enough to feel good about as a parent.
I ran a race last weekend. I came in 38th. The girls weren’t overly impressed. But I was. I knew I could not have run any better or any faster.
For the most part, my kids did not inherit my competitive genes. This might largely be for the best. Just ask Michelle about a very infamous darts game from 2002. My desire to win got more than a little out of hand. It took a long time for me to learn to deal with those emotions in a better way.
Maybe the girls can beat me to that epiphany. Maybe they already have.
If you’re going to compete with anyone, compete with yourself, to be the best version of yourself. Compete over things you actually control. Focus on the stuff that’s up to you. Forget the rest.
Two of my steadfast life rules:
First, I’ll eat anything you put in a tortilla. Second, everything tastes better when cooked in a cast iron skillet, including pan pizza.
I have many suburban memories of birthday parties, Pac-man arcade games, and hot pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Before the Hut went in the crapper.
I often complain about the kids in this blog, in a humorous way, but still usually some chiding complaint. I thought I should at least offer a positive story once in awhile. Just not too often. Don’t want them to get inflated egos.
Cecilia didn’t do well on a test (sorry, can’t call them tests anymore – check-in) earlier this year. To be fair, given the email we received from the teacher, many kids did not do well (which might make me think about the teaching methods…). I digress.
Cecilia latched onto this group failure as her life preserver. Sorry, not going to work, in school or life. You will make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and we all make our fair share of mistakes. Even Dad bloggers. Maybe one or two a year.
However, if you do not take responsibility for the mistake and do your best to correct it, then you are committing a second mistake. You can probably picture me telling her this. Or you probably have given your own kids similar advice. Take responsibility. Do the right thing, even though you may feel embarrassed by your previous actions. Don’t compound the error.
You also probably walked away wondering if any of that sank into their teenage brain.
Well, last Wednesday, I received an unexpected text that Cecilia was staying after school for extra help to prepare for a te-, eh, check-in the next day. She listened! She didn’t compound the error! She still rolled her eyes when I picked her up, but I’m sure she was smiling on the inside.
The marathon is on Monday and it feels really strange and disconcerting to have it in the fall. This won’t make a lot of sense to those outside the area but just imagine if they decided to hold the Mummers parade in July.
I’ve only run one marathon and, with an arthritic knee, it will likely remain that way but I think about that marathon a lot. Running a marathon is an ambitious goal and the work you need to do to just get to the starting line is immense and often humbling. I found it also has a way of clarifying the other priorities or goals in your life.
Being constantly busy and trying to fit everything in is not the same as being productive. You often end up just feeling restless, bouncing from one thing to another. Finding the right balance between action and inaction is one of the more difficult things in life. It’s about working hard and then relaxing. Not working really hard and then avoiding work.
Big goals force you to prioritize and pare down your list. That is the way to find that balance. Sure, you can finish a marathon and do a bunch of other big ambitious things but you’ll likely only be able to do all of those things half as well as you could. Eliminate the inessential and you get the double benefit of doing the essential stuff better.
Hypothetically speaking, I might have gotten upset with Cecilia this past week for forgetting two things that she needed for dance class. We had to turn around and go back to the house.
Why can’t she be more organized? She’s got all these tools and technology at her disposal that I never had. She has a computer in her pocket that can buzz and beep and automatically remind her to pack these things. She’s got it easy. Kids have it easy.
Maybe all these things I never had might make it harder? Maybe, despite my best efforts, I’m not the easiest person to live with. Maybe being a kid has always been and always will be harder than I can remember. Maybe the best response isn’t yelling or getting frustrated but trying to empathize.
I turned around and we drove back to the house, got the stuff, and the drove back to dance.
Turns out dance lessons don’t start until this week. I should probably put a reminder in my phone.