It was Michelle’s birthday yesterday and I was thinking about time. And the lessons we can learn from kids and the lessons we can teach them.
Birthdays to the young are huge and momentous. They are anticipated and planned with all the focus and energy we wish they’d put into learning new math.
For parents, our birthdays are…maybe not as special. We’ve been through it all so many times before.
A parent’s relationship with time is different. Kids have such a limited sense of time. They can be arrogant about time just through sheer ignorance. But adults can also be too dismissive because we are just too comfortable.
Maybe we can help each other appreciate it. Not to wish away minutes in a rush to get older and not to simply let it slip from our grasp.
I had a birthday this week. And parenting didn’t stop. This is a job with no end. Moms and Dads are always on the clock. But you can’t lose yourself either. Age is not a barrier and we can’t use being a parent as an excuse. Just the opposite. My life may have gotten re-priortized but it didn’t stop when I became a Dad.
I know the girls are always watching (unless I’m talking about the benefits of flash cards). I need to keep growing, too. I won’t give up my interests but rather keep trying to teach with them. Who else is going to make me pizza and muffins in my old age?
We went to see Elf with friends (Happy Birthday, Ty!) at a rented movie theater this week. It was a great time and spoiled ever going to a theater with strangers again. It also meant that Ally had plenty of sugar after 7 p.m. Her appetite for candy and desserts has been well documented here. She was a hyper Christmas pixie by the time we made it home. Her contagious silliness infected her sister. It was time for bed but they only had mischief on their minds. Giggling, fighting, laughing. Thank god the glitter was out of reach.
It was late. I was ready to pack it in. This was definitely not time for a rumpus. I was teetering on the verge of shutting it down by parental decree (i.e., yelling) and yet…a question popped into my mind instead: who has it better?
Nobody. Nobody has it as good as your own family. It’s a mad, mad world out there right now. Hang on tight to those dear to you. Lean into that craziness. Try to enjoy it.
We’ve been lucky, in one sense, during this pandemic that both Michelle and I like to cook, but we hit a wall this week. Through convenience or curiosity, we gave up and just threw everything in the borrowed air fryer. It became a challenge by the end of the week.
Here’s the list of things we loaded up and answered the question: “Will it air fry?”
Chickpeas (perfect and crunchy), pickles (eh), grilled cheese (yup), apple fritters (so good), salmon and broccoli together (yes, excellent sheet pan-style dinner), arancinis (italian riceball croquettes – pretty good), chicken nuggets (duh), tofu (not bad), fries (of course), sweet potatoes (double cooked worked best), s’mores (surprisingly good), tots (made for this), burritos, Brussel sprouts, chicken tenders, and cod.
You do what you got to do to get through 2020.
Like many, Michelle and I are doing a health reset in January after the excess of the holidays and recently had a discussion about the best way to measure success without just relying on pounds or calories. We never did resolve that question but the amorphous nature of a potential answer did lead me to thinking about how I might ultimately measure success as a parent. What does that look like? I mean, having healthy kids who eventually move out of your house and survive to adulthood is an obvious answer. But a lot of that could be put down to luck and has a whiff of just barely meeting the basic job requirements.
If I look into the future, what might I see that makes me happy? Ironically, for an introvert, I decided it’s having a crowded house. On holidays. On birthdays. On a random Sunday night for dinner. I’ll be a success as a Dad if I ultimately have children I get to see, who actually want to see me, and spend time with me. A crowded house or a crowded table will be my metric of success.
For now, they have no choice. They are stuck with me. Here’s how Saturday went…
So it’s parent-teacher conference time. Both kids are doing fine but it’s a good reminder for me to never minimize their accomplishments. It’s something that I find challenging at times. It can be easier for me to point out what else they could have done than to praise what they have done.
By this point, it’s very obvious that while Cecilia and I share many traits, how we learn is vastly different. How someone with my genes can hate flash cards? I still have flash cards I made in college! (At some point, on some Saturday, Michelle will discover them in the basement and take them to the transfer station.) It’s not my job to change her or make her see it my way (unless it’s about Boston sports). It’s my job to be on team Ce, to root for her and encourage her. To make sure she understands that I’m proud of her regardless not because she is perfect or smart. That I’m most proud of her high marks in effort and how she has the confidence to keep trying new things.
Similar to winter piano recital, the spring dance recital day is full of nerves, excitement, energy, sequins, and smiles. I’ve learned to mostly make myself scarce on recital morning. I contribute driving and logistics throughout the year but even after ten years I remain mostly useless with hair and makeup.
It’s been rewarding to watch both girls both progress throughout this year and also continue to progress year over year. It allowed me the perfect opening to opine on two of my favorite Dad subjects: the power of deliberate practice and how to deal with failure. Queue the girls rolling their eyes but I know some part of them is listening.
To develop mastery in anything you need deliberate practice. You can’t just repeat the same task over and over, you need to break it down and work on the individual parts. And not the easy parts. You need to work on the hard stuff.
Remember, failure is a key part of learning. You shouldn’t try to fail or focus on the failure itself. Instead, you should see it as temporary situation. The biggest question isn’t how or why you failed but how you respond to failure.
Are you going to let a few missing sequins ruin your day or are you going to put on a smile and take the stage?