We are back from our West Coast vacation. We survived our one-day Disneyland whirlwind. It was a good age to take them.
I did my best to try to take it all in. That isn’t always easy for me. I like a to-do list. I like having a plan. I like feeling productive. Sometimes that drive comes at the cost of actually experiencing the thing I am so eager to check off my list. So I tried to say yes more this vacation and I tried not to get too tied up in the planning.
It wasn’t always easy. That water can be cold. Or the beach sand too… sandy. Or the thought of paying for another bowl of mac ‘n cheese too much. But I tried because (as just about everyone who hasn’t seen Cece in awhile comments on) they are growing older. Really fast.
So I tried to say yes while they are still asking and while I still can because one day soon they won’t ask Dad to jump in the hotel pool or body surf that wave with them.
They will probably still ask me for mac ‘n cheese however.
I made good on a four year promise this week when I took Cecilia to Six Flags as part of her twelfth birthday. Be very careful what you casually say when they are eight. Kids remember everything.
We planned, we plotted, we watched the weather, we figured out the best routes and the best deals. And things mostly worked out. We had a great day. I hope we had a memorable day but I don’t really get to choose.
Despite all the planning and stress, what I’ve heard her mention most to others afterward wasn’t the coasters or wild rides but the M&M design on the park’s entrance steps, the various tattoos on the people in line, the frappuccino she got at Starbucks on the way, and the Nutella pizza the restaurant had on the menu.
We can stress about perfect summer vacations or special birthdays but mostly its the little ordinary moments that stick. Big or little, I’m happy she will at least remember who else was there with her.
The kids had winter break this week. We stayed put and I hit a pandemic wall. Not the first in the past year. Turns out an introvert who doesn’t mind going days without speaking to other humans has limits. I tried to fight it. Being tired is easy. Being a cynic is easy. Caring is much harder. Hoping is harder.
Who knows how this past year will effect the kids long term? Maybe they shrug it off. Maybe it’s a weird touchstone moment they share at parties. I do know it’s not fair to let my experiences deprive them of any hope they need to be happy. So I put on my Dad pants, vacuumed up my pity, stayed off the internet, and tried to stay positive.
Parenting is not easy. It takes a certain courage. The courage to wake up in the morning and keep up the good cheer even if you’re not feeling it. The courage to believe that making a better world is possible and worth it.
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.
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. Continue Reading
Cecilia is her own unique human being. That blinding realization hit me this week. That seems obvious, right? But I think I needed to really fully recognize and grasp that simple fact in everyday life, not just as a fuzzy truism. I’m trying to be a more positive parent in 2018 and a big part of that will be understanding that Cecilia is not a copy of me. She doesn’t learn like me. She doesn’t like the same things as me. She doesn’t react like me.
The more she is out on her own in the world the more she is developing her own individual personality and chosen path. Instead of reacting with frustration or anger when she struggles or approaches something differently or unexpectedly, I will try to be supportive. This will mostly come up with homework. I simply don’t remember learning to read nor do I know all the new math strategies. When she takes, what I perceive, as the roundabout way to an answer, I need to be patient.
All of this doesn’t mean she gets free rein. I’m not insane. Limits are a very helpful and useful parenting tool! I just want my reactions to be more compassionate and understanding that she is her own person and will develop and learn at her own pace. <sigh> So easy to write, so hard to do.</sigh>Continue Reading