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.
This past week I explained one of my design patterns to someone at work. Then I explained it again. And then one more time.
Later that day, the girls left their lunch dishes on the table and the front door open. I may not have shown the same level of restraint. That made me pause. Why was I giving a mostly anonymous work colleague more patience and understanding than my own family? Had I used it all up earlier in the day? Was it because work is more public? Or that I get paid?
Those all seem like terrible excuses. It’s sometimes easy to forget that these kids are tiny people and should get the same patience and understanding as everyone else in my life. Actually, they should get more. They deserve more.
I’ve come to accept that selective ignorance is key to parenting survival. Not all the time. That might get dangerous but it is next to impossible to enjoy any of this if you are freaking out about every tiny decision or tiny probability of something happening. You wouldn’t last a week. You’d be a wreck.
There are some things it’s better not to think about. There are some times when we just need to accept that we’re winging it. There are some problems we’ll just have to solve when we get to them.
It’s National Library Week and I’m going to admit one of my biggest fears: despite trying to lead by example, despite having books piled up around the house, despite literally writing books myself, my kids won’t be lifelong readers. They won’t love books.
When we visited Paris, searching out a famous bookstore was on the agenda. I love books.
I believe reading is the greatest shortcut to self-improvement. Yet most people I know struggle to find the time to do it. And if we struggle to do it for ourselves, we struggle even more to get our kids to do it.
Other than not letting them root for any NY team, getting them to appreciate, enjoy, and want to read, is one of my top priorities as a Dad.
I say ‘no’ constantly to their requests when we are out doing errands but I never say no to a book. I try to think of books as investments. You put down a few dollars, commit several hours, and you get something back. That might be a few hours of escape, feeling less alone, learning a new skill, or solving a problem.
Give them someone to look up to and a book they can come back to.
Another Saturday, another morning run. From the outside looking in, especially in the winter months, this might look insane. Why do I get up early and run in the cold and wind? Because it’s my outlet. Because it makes me a better Dad.
Everyone needs an outlet for the stress of daily life. Parents probably need more than one. Running and exercising is how I try to arm myself against the frustration, stress, exhaustion, and other muck that sticks to you throughout the day.
Now, more than ever, that toxic ooze from just existing in the modern world needs to be disposed of properly.
I can tell on days where I don’t exercise that I’m shorter with the girls, or have less patience, or I’m less present. It doesn’t matter what it is, running, walking the dog, painting, hopscotch, or kickboxing, you have to find something.
Don’t take it out on your kids. As parents, we are responsible for our own sludge.