Apparently…we’re good parents. At least that’s what we’ve been told over and over again by our friends and family that see how Kate and I parent our 2-year-old Max and care for our 5-month-old Dodge. This comes as a great relief as I honestly feel like a terrible parent who is stumbling around in the dark, at the end of my rope, and scarring my kids for life. Parenting is scary. At first you are making decision for a child that will affect him for a lifetime, then they learn from you and form their personalities that will last a lifetime, then they make their own decisions that will affect them for a lifetime. A lifetime!
In the first few weeks and months I stressed about every little temperature change on Max, every vaccination the doctor recommended, and every decision I made that would affect him in any way. With Dodge…I’m more like, “Meh…he’ll be fine.” I’m not a patient man by any means so kids are perfect for me because the first thing they learn to do is obey every word you say and sit quietly while you watch episodes of Duck Dynasty. They are in your grill 24/7. Kate is super patient and I try to tell people she’s why they are so well mannered and happy…not me. As I look back I do realize that we’re a good team that co-parents well with a plan (I think we have a plan). We are not hover-parents, we have great parent figures to look up to, and are teaching our kids how to do things on their own while understanding their place within the family unit. However…I often need to be reminded of my place in the family unit. Here are some of the shortfalls I have as a parent:
This summer Max wouldn’t stop running on the dock so I threw him in the lake. The other night Dodge wouldn’t go to bed so I closed as many doors between him and me so it was harder to hear him and drank another glass of wine. When Creighton left the Missouri Valley Conference I taught Max to call Creighton fans “pussies,” which he now sometimes says any time he sees someone in a blue or white shirt. At parties or gatherings when Dodge is happy I hold him – when he cries I hand him off to Kate and offer to get her a drink. If Max won’t stop “accidentally” hitting me in the tenders while running around, I jut my butt out as he runs towards me and “accidentally” knock him over. I have taken a stance that I won’t change Dodge’s cloth diapers because cloth diapers creep me out (though I advocate for them as a better option for the environment). When Kate runs to the store and Max asks me over and over and over again where Mommy went I eventually say, “Mommy left us because you won’t stop asking where Mommy is and she won’t come back till you stop.” When Dodge gets fussy at home I find a useless chore like rehanging a picture which I can’t stop in the middle of because “I’m on a ladder and stuff.” When Max refuses to come inside from the backyard I turn on the sprinkler system. When Dodge wakes up at night I wake up Kate. When Max wakes up at night I fart in his room and ask him if he wants me to keep making it stinky in there or if he wants to go back to bed. I don’t have the phone number for many of the kid’s sitters and I always forget their teachers’ names. Max often refers to Kate and I as “Mommy and the other one.” Dodge started to learn to crawl the other day while I was reading my book and I flipped him on his back so I could finish the chapter. Max knows a plethora of swearwords and often uses them in the correct context…but only in public when other people are around and never at home where he scolds me and tells me I said a “no-no word.” I grounded Max once for coming into our room in the morning before I woke up. Max intentionally farted on Dodge the other day as have farted on Max many times in the past. If Max sees a guy wearing a tank-top he asks me, “Is that guy a douchebag?” …and I reply, “Yes.”
So…as you can see, when people tell me “You’re such a good parent.” I’m both ashamed and snickering to myself. If only they knew. However, not trying to toot my own horn here, we’ve been complimented so many times over the past few months to the point where I’m starting to believe I might be a good parent.
In all seriousness I take great pride in how well-behaved my kids are and know what part I’ve played shaping them into the tiny people they are so far. I have my shortfalls…okay, a lot of shortfalls. However, I have an amazing wife and we have a plan…kind of. Basically, it all comes back to a central theme for me. When we lived in the Adirondacks our neighbors were a major influence on me as to what kind of parent I wanted to be. Till I met them I thought parenting was hovering, pampering, etc. Our neighbor’s kids had full run of the property, the woods, the lake, and so on. They were massively advanced from their peers regarding maturity, motor skills, communication, and education. When the youngest fell off a rock and cried I went to scoop him up and the dad stopped me and said to his son, “What happened?” The son replied, “I fell.” The dad asked, “Why did you fall?” The son thought about it and replied, “I was playing too close to the edge.” The dad smiled and said, “Right. Are you okay?” The kid smiled back and said, “Yeah.” Then the son dusted himself off and went back to playing. He never fell off the rock again and soon was jumping off it. That moment has inspired many of my parenting decisions and I always try to use parenting situations as an opportunity to…
- Create a dialogue
- Instill awareness in my son
- Teach him to soothe himself
- Let the moral come from his brain
That is why my son can play by himself in the backyard while I’m working in the garage. That is why my son can walk down the street instead of ride in a stroller. That is why my son can sit still for a three hour flight and not kick the seat in front of him or be too loud. That is why we rarely use bandaids. That is why my son can talk a blue streak and tell you exactly what’s going on with him. That’s why potty training has gone so well. He is independent because we’ve intentionally parented him to be that way. The flip side to the coin is he is no longer a little kid-puppet…he has his own opinions, agendas, and desires…and he knows the word, “No.” …and we all know how patient I am.
It’s easy to judge something a parent does that you disagree with, especially if you are a new parent or not a parent. It is harder to pick out something a parent does that you like and compliment them. I’ve gotten very used to other parents telling me what they think I should do, giving me suggestions for things, and offering up help. I do it too. I’m doing it now. It’s what happens when you join the worldwide club of parenting. Something we’re terrible at is telling parents they’re doing a good job. So thank you to everyone who has been tooting my whistle as of late, you have no idea how much it means to hear from someone they think you are doing the right thing…because parenting is often a large pool of doubt. If you see a parent do something that you like…tell them. Compliment them. Congratulate them. If you are a parent, odds are you are doing something right, just don’t teach your toddler to call people in tank-tops douchebags.
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