A favorite quote from Bette Davis: “If you’ve never been hated by your child, you’ve never been a parent.”
We had a couple of incidents this week that had the kids mad at me. Nothing big. Nothing that wasn’t really forgotten the next day (attempts at smuggling candy, what constitutes actually washing your hands, how to properly fold a fitted sheet).
Here’s what I’ve come to believe after 10 years of parenting. If your kids are never mad at you, if they never whine about how unfair you are being, it’s probably means you’re not doing your job as a parent. You are only protecting them from the consequences of their actions. How is that going to work out in the long run when life gives them a firm kick in the pants? We can only engage with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be. Raising sheltered or unprepared kids is not the way to raise successful adults.
Today is my ninth Father’s Day. That is plenty long enough for habits and routines to become well worn. That is at least a thousand diapers. A thousand daycare pickups. A thousand water bottles filled. A thousand pieces of plain pasta cooked. A thousand soapy tubs emptied. As any parent knows these routines are critical for survival. These routines get us through the day with children on the bus, lunches packed, clothes laundered and bedtime stories read. They help us order our world.
It is impossible to see and feel all of those things for the first time, every time. If every experience brought that rush of the first experience, a single day would overwhelm and exhaust even the hardiest parent. If each day were full of firsts, my legs would crumple and my chest would heave with effort before noon.
Habits and routine are every parent’s secret weapon. I fear they are also dangerous. Habits can quickly make the extraordinary seem ordinary. If you’re not careful, you find yourself looking at the world through a dull, gray gauze. A whisper of brown hair is Ally. Flecks of aquamarine eyes is Cecilia. But did I see them? Really see them? Routine is an insatiable thing. It will consume the familiar and make the everyday seem mundane. They can blind you to the insane miracle of your children. Of being a father.
Of course, miracle is not the first word that comes to mind when I hear little feet going down the stairs at 5:45. Insane on the other hand…..time to be a Dad.
Like many, we are knee deep in end of school year activities. This week we attended Cecilia’s end of the year music and fine arts show. She was very excited. She, unlike me, quite enjoys performing on stage. The show was remarkably good for a third grade production.
The thing she is most looking forward in fourth grade is finally getting to play the trombone. That’s not a joke. And who knows, maybe she’ll love it and be great at it.
So far, we haven’t really hit on Cecilia’s “thing” yet, which is completely fine. I might not have loved Little League (I was much better at getting hit than actually hitting) but I certainly took things from it that helped me in other areas. I believe kids should try a lot of things for as long as possible (probably adults, too). The trend, especially in youth sports, to specialize and focus on one thing earlier and earlier in an effort to create mini-Tiger Woods prodigies freaks me out. And given how Mr. Woods ended up, it should freak you out, too.
So she hasn’t found her thing. No big deal. Let’s try the trombone. Lots of room in the world for a kick-ass female trombone player. But first, on to a Saturday that included triathlons, tacos and dance parties. There are always dance parties….
It felt like Groundhog Day here. Another gray, unsettled and wet Saturday here. It was a mostly lazy day here as the spring-time charm of New England really wasn’t motivating us to get outside and do much. We had Cecilia’s dance class (only a few left before the spring recital!) and our dominoes night on the schedule, but little else other than watching the rain and trying to get Dash to go outside.
Oh, how could I forget. We also had to survive all those completely believable, kid April Fool’s Days pranks. By 9:15 a.m. I was desperately trying to convince them it was actually April 2nd to save my own sanity.
As usual we started the day on the couch with a show and some pomegranate pop tarts ….