Dad and Buried - Always going further than most fathers.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
The parenting blog for parents who love their kids but hate parenting. Laugh at my mistakes, judge the judgers, and learn why being a parent is the best thing that's ever happened to you that you'll occasionally wish had never happened to you. Especially when you have a hangover.
We all have big plans for what we want to teach our kids, the values we want to instill, the pop culture we want to pass down. We all have big plans for molding out children into the kind of people we want them to be.
And then we actually have the kids, and life intrudes.
A few years ago, an old friend was visiting with his family. We were in the backyard, catching up over a couple of beers, when one of his sons, who’s the same age as Detective Munch said something about a girl in his class, or a teacher, or his mom. In an attempt to make his dad laugh, I reflexively made a “women, am I right?” joke.
My friend didn’t laugh.
Instead, he cut me off, making it clear that he didn’t want his kid to hear that kind of thing. I was embarrassed, not only for making a dumb joke, but because I knew he was right. I was being a bad role model and a bad parent. My highly nuanced crack about the inherent difficulty of interacting with the female gender (i.e., “Women be CRAZY!”) was inappropriate around a young, impressionable kid. His dad was right to rebuke me.
A joke like that might be harmless among adults who know each other – my friend knows I don’t actually believe it, that I was being hacky and ironic, but it’s not so harmless around kids. They absorb everything, they look to adults for cues, and they don’t know from irony. Displaying a subtly misogynistic attitude could potential infect my friend’s kid with an unhealthy perspective. That’s not the kind of lesson I want to impart to my friend’s kids, and certainly not to mine.
I want to raise my sons to be respectful of women, of everyone, and to accept them as equals on every level. I spend a fair amount of time writing about my desire to raise my sons with the right values, but the anecdote above should make it pretty clear that I don’t always practice what I preach.
It’s a lot easier to write about being a good dad than it is to actually be one.
I have a lot of shortcomings as a parent and as a person, and I’m not shy about admitting them. I also don’t pretend that it’s easy to follow through on all the grand plans you have for raising your kids – from playing them classical music when they’re in the womb to denying the screen time until they’re ten, etc – once you actually have them. All that stuff is great in theory and much more difficult in practice.
We don’t raise children in a vacuum. We don’t parent them in a bubble, isolated from the real world, protected from daily stresses, separated from our non-parent lives. No, we add the children to our lives, and we continue to live. Our priorities change, and our perspective is altered, and, if we’re diligent, our behavior changes as we adjust to our roles as Examples and Role Models.
But none of us stop being ourselves when we become moms and dads. It can sometimes feel like it, but the people we were pre-kids are never really gone. It can take a real effort to adjust your behavior and your lifestyle to the fact that there are kids around. But if you want to raise them right, you have to do more than pay lip service to the values you want to pass down. You have to live them yourself, or else the messages get muddled. Actions speak louder than words!
Instilling the right values, imparting the proper wisdom, and raising your kids with lofty ideals sounds great, but it’s a lot harder to pull off when you’re actually living your life.
It’s hard to preach kindness to your kids when someone cuts you off in traffic and your instinct is to curse them out. It’s hard to promote civility when your primary mode of communication is sarcasm and gentle mockery. It’s hard to insist on kindness when reading the news makes you furious with half the country. It’s hard to teach equality when you crack jokes that say something different. But you’ve got to try!
Like it or not, you’re a role model now. Your kids both want to be like you and can’t help becoming like you. And while they might listen to the things you say, they also watch the things you do, so you’d better practice what you preach.
About once a week, I work from home. And I HATE it.
I didn’t like being a stay-at-home dad and I don’t like working from home. It’s not my forte, and that has nothing to do with my gender.
It has more to do with my kids.
Mom and Buried has a lot of doctor’s appointments. For issues both big – like her multiple sclerosis – and small – like when she nearly cut her own finger off last summer. Thanks to my awesome boss, I’m able to work from home once in a while – like today! – in order to accommodate these appointments, which my wife usually tries to double and triple-up on so as to get them done in the same day.
My kids aren’t quite as helpful.
I didn’t much like being home with the kids even when I wasn’t actually working from home and was just parenting them. (I know, I know, staying at home with the kids is hard work in and of itself. Chill; that’s the entire point of this post!) When Detective Munch was younger, I was a stay-at-home dad for about two years. It wasn’t my favorite.
It’s hard work entertaining a two-year-old, especially if you aren’t keen on planting him in front of the TV for six hours. And parenting is just the tip of the iceberg; any stay-at-home mom or dad knows that taking care of and entertaining your kids is only half of what’s expected of you. You’re also expected to clean and clean & fold laundry and cook dinner and run errands and fold fitted sheets somehow AND you’re expected to do it all so seamlessly that when your spouse gets home they don’t even realize how much blood, sweat, and tears – oh my god, the tears – went into it.
(When you think about it like that, being asked “what do you even do all day?” is kind of a compliment! An insulting, infuriating, and utterly ignorant compliment, especially coming from one’s spouse, but still. Kudos!)
I’m not good at any of that stuff. I’m not a good planner, I’m not a good packer, I’m not a good cleaner, I’m not a good grocery shopper. I’m just not very good at most domestic responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be a good husband so I definitely DO all of that stuff, I just don’t do it anywhere near as well as my wife does.
And if I needed a reminder, both of how inadequate I am and how amazing my wife is, working from home the other day did the job.
At the end of a rainy day spent entertaining my second grader and preventing my toddler from killing himself while simultaneously attempting to get my work done, do the laundry, and at the very least manage to not make the house MORE messy, Mom and Buried finally returned home, and not a minute too soon.
Shortly after she arrived, we started cooking dinner together, and already at the end of my rope, I just about lost my mind. There we were, prepping chicken and boiling pasta while dealing with both kids underfoot, clinging to and darting between our legs, grabbing at and wielding every loose kitchen item they could find, all while blanketing the kitchen in an agonizing Wall of Sound. I was completely bewildered and overwhelmed.
(You know in the movies when someone discovers they can read minds and before they know how to control it they are practically driven insane by the noise? Have kids!)
My wife, meanwhile, was nonplussed. She deals with this every day. She handles it every day. I know this – I KNEW this – but this long, hectic day helped reiterate it. So did the fact that she flat-out told me, “I’m better at this than you.” Which wasn’t super helpful! But she’s right.
Again, before you get the wrong idea, this isn’t a gender thing. Not in the slightest.
True parenting equality means roles aren’t restricted by gender. In our house they’re not, and I bet they’re not in yours either. It’s 2017! Mom and Buried and I don’t divide duties based on chromosomes, we both do what needs to be done, what we’re good at, and, when we’re lucky, we’re able to delegate those duties based on what we prefer to do.
My wife and I have both been the working parent, we’ve both been the stay-at-home parent, and we’ve both attempted the balancing act that is working from home with kids around. She’s better at those last two than I am, but that’s not because she’s a woman. She’s better at them than I am for a million different reasons – she’s more patient, she’s more kind, she’s more willing to talk about Minecraft, etc. – but mostly it’s because she’s better at *everything* than I am!
So if you’re out there wondering how your spouse manages to make what he or she does look easy when your attempts leave you curled up in the fetal position surrounded by empty bottles of booze, remember that unless you’re talking about playing tackle football or giving birth, it’s not gender that makes the difference.
My wife is better at those things than I am because of *who* she is, not what she is. I’ve never assumed otherwise, and neither should you.
(Although successfully folding a fitted sheet might be a female thing. Because I went to college and I am at a total loss with those things.)
Parents spend so much time teaching our kids the dos and don’ts of proper behavior that we seem to forget that we need to adhere to the same rules.
We want our kids to grow up with empathy and compassion, acceptance and generosity and more, but we often go around practicing the exact opposite, particularly when it comes to our interactions with fellow parents.
Maybe it’s because the act of procreation is so profound, and, for many of us, may be the most meaningful, lasting thing we’ll ever do. Unfortunately, pretty much anyone can do it, and the idea that someone knows better merely because they have children, or have had children for longer, is absurd.
Most of the parents I know can hardly handle their own kids (myself included), let alone other people’s! And yet once we procreate, whether we’ve been parents for a year or for ten, we can’t help ourselves from offering advice to other parents, leveling judgment at them, making comparisons of our kids and our methods, i.e., being obnoxious.
We spend so much energy teaching our children to be good people (impressing upon them the need to be kind, to be respectful, to treat others as they’d like to be treated) and to have good manners (training them to say please and thank you and you’re welcome, not to stare, not to point) and then we seem to lose track of those values ourselves.
So I’ve put together a list of some basic dos and don’ts of parental interaction, so that we can try to stop being jerks to each other.
Don’t Judge – As if you know any better
Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice – If I want your input, I’ll ask for it
Do Offer a Helping Hand – It’s always welcome
Do Offer a Drink – So is this!
Don’t Compare – Everyone’s circumstances are different. YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.
I don’t want to tell you what to do any more than you want to hear it. I don’t know what you want, or what’s best for you, because I don’t know you. And even then I wouldn’t presume that I know better than you how to live your life or run your family or parent your kids; I’m barely holding my own life and family and kids together.
There’s only one thing I know for certain about you, and that’s that we’re in the same boat. We’re all flailing around, grasping at straws.
We’re all tired AF. We’re all frustrated as hell. We all judge and we all compare and we all do the same shit we hate having done to us because we’re all human and we can’t help it. To our credit, much of the judgment probably comes from a good place, an instinctual desire to protect children, but the fact is no one knows best.
The sooner we all accept that, the sooner we can stop worrying about what other parents are doing. So unless you see someone holding their second grader’s legs during a keg stand, you should probably just butt out.
In other words, rather than leave you with a long list of dos and don’ts, I’ll go back to the only ones you really need: do mind your business and don’t be a dick.
Stress isn’t a competition. Newsflash: We’re all stressed out of our minds!
Adulthood is stressful. Work is stressful. Marriage is stressful. The state of the world is stressful. Life is stressful!
And, of course, parenting is stressful too, in more ways than one. But parenting stress is a little different, because being a parent is both stressful in and of itself and because the presence of children adds an extra layer of stress on top of everything else. It’s fun!
Parenting isn’t necessarily *more* stressful than other things – there are plenty of non-parents out there with stuff going on that is just as intense, if not more intense, than the stuff we parents deal with every day.
Every single one of us has things going on in our lives that keep us up at night and bog us down during the day, and we’re all doing our best to handle them. We’re all trying our best to survive those stressful details and occurrences, some of which are obvious to outsiders, some of which aren’t. Everyone is fighting some kind of private battle, whether it’s as insidious and crippling as depression and anxiety, as commonplace and unnecessary as self-consciousness and self-doubt, or as unique and fictitious as being possessed by a Demogorgon. (What? You don’t know my life!)
But parenting is a little different in the way that it takes all of your existing stress and gives it a boost. Then, to make matters worse, it forces you to keep it to yourself.
When it comes to being overwhelmed with stress, it’s typically a good idea to talk to someone about it. To let it out. To get help, if necessary. Mom and Buried likes letting it out when we’re lying in bed and I’m about to fall sleep, which doesn’t exactly do wonders for my stress level but that’s not the point!
Unfortunately, parenting makes hiding your stress necessary, at least when your children are around.
I already tend towards the dark side, personality wise. The last thing I want to do is make things worse by letting my adult anxieties and fears bleed into the way I interact with my kids.
I should ask my mom and dad how they did it.
When I was growing up, I was lucky. I was rarely aware of any of the stressful things my parents were surely dealing with. In fact, it wasn’t until I was older and out of the house – and out of my bubble, and out of my own head – that I really started to clue in, and it was a bit of a shock to realize that not only are my parents fallible human beings, they’re also dealing with the same shit as everyone else!
To their credit, they did an extraordinary job of shielding me and my older brothers – not just from whatever the daily, monthly, yearly concerns that were roiling around in their brains all the time, but that they even had any concerns! Because if their stress altered the way they interacted with us, I had no idea. At least none that I can remember now.
What’s most impressive about that magic trick is that it had to be accomplished on two levels:
They had to keep their kids from catching wind of whatever concerns were causing the stress, which probably wasn’t all that hard; we all know how clueless and self-centered kids are! But it still requires a lot of effort, and;
They had to prevent those stresses from impacting their behavior, their moods, and their parenting.
That’s the rub. That’s the hard part. And that’s the part that I struggle with. Unfortunately it’s also the part that is most important.
I don’t want my patience to be thinner than usual, my voice to get louder more quickly, my mood to be grumpy more often. Because while they may not know why – or worse, they may assume they’re why – they can definitely tell when Dad’s unhappy or on edge, and that’s okay once in a while, but not when it’s the norm. Not when it causes them to be scared of me.
It’s not my kids’ fault that money is tight (I mean, it kind of is with all their stupid clothes and diapers and food, but I’ll allow it), it’s not my kids’ fault when Daddy’s job is frustrating and precarious, it’s not my kid’s fault when Mommy doesn’t feel great, it’s not my kids’ fault that politicians are killing the country or that January has inexplicably lasted six years or that the new season of Game of Thrones won’t even be out until 2019!
Besides, even when something is my kids’ fault, that’s usually the last thing they need to know. They’re children, they don’t deserve to be saddled with adult problems. They deserve as carefree a childhood as they can get. They’ll have plenty of stress of their own to deal with when they’re older.
Until then, it’s my job to protect them from stress for as long as I can, and that mostly means protecting them from mine. Hopefully I’ll get better at faking it. I’m a terrible actor, but I do like bourbon, so that should help.
The last two years have moved pretty quickly, but a lot of that is probably because I’ve spent most of that time sleepwalking half-awake through my life. The baby phase is over and the toddler phase is in full-swing, so if the terrible twos actually arrive on time (Detective Munch didn’t get terrible until he became a threenager), I’m about to be awoken very abruptly.
In order to save my sanity, I’ve started indulging in some second kid slacking.
Having a second kid is different. Not only are they two completely different people, the circumstances into which they are born are completely different as well.
For another thing, the impact the new baby has on your home is mitigated by the fact that the place has been broken-in already. You probably still have a lot of the stuff you needed, and didn’t even know you needed, the first time. We had a five-year gap during which we weren’t even sure we’d go for another, and we still managed to hang onto the stroller, the crib, the high chair, countless clothes, and more.
Mostly, though, the novelty is gone! You’ve been through the newborn phase and the toddler phase already. You’ve experienced the fun firsts and you’ve survived the terrible twos. It’s old hat to you now! Maybe not as old as if you’ve had three or five or ten kids, and those first are still fun and the twos are still a garbage fire, but they’re not new anymore. Been there, done that, got the spit-up stained t-shirt.
That fact, and the fact that there is another kid around demanding your attention, are probably the two biggest factors that impact your parenting of the second kid. This time around, you’re definitely more chill and you’re probably more distracted, and that stuff is bound to impact the new kid’s personality, in only in the way that he’s forced to fend for himself more than his older sibling, whose arrival was a game-changing, priority-altering, life-exploding miracle.
The second kid is just more headache. And joy too! But mostly headache. Because not only does he spend most of his time screaming for attention, his older sibling does too. Because suddenly there’s less of it to go around. In order to save your sanity, it helps if you do a little second kid slacking.
A few years ago, just before he was born, I wrote about being curious to find out what The Hammer’s personality would be like, and how it would compare to his older brother’s. It’s still in the very early stages, but already some differences are manifesting themselves, and some of them are likely being spurred on by our increasingly lax parenting. Because, and I say this with love: WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT.
Adding another kid to the mix definitely brings more stress, but your experience as a parent helps limits your anxiety. You’re a veteran now, and while you’re always aware that the worst things can still happen, you’re much less worried about the small stuff. And that lack of worry is reflected in the way you don’t micro-manage kid number two. By now you’ve hopefully discovered that parents are overrated, that your kids are probably going to be fine, or at least not fine in the same way everyone’s kids are, and that you don’t need to lose your mind over every little thing.
You want to watch TV with your brother even though it’s way beyond your age range? Go ahead, just be quiet. You want to eat some potato chips? Whatevs, just stop screaming. You want to run around on the playground with your older brother and his friends even though it means you’re gonna get ping-ponged around like a pinball? Wake me when you need a cast. You want to play violent games on the iPad? Knock yourself out, I’m gonna take a nap.
Obviously some of this may end up having negative long-term consequences, but in the now? It’s a win-win! Especially now that we’re at the point where we can send The Hammer off with Detective Munch and go back to sleep. Sure, this requires us to let a 7-year-old decide what’s best for his much younger brother, and that often means he gives him food and shows him things that are decidedly not best for him, but hey, if it buys us a little extra sleep, so be it. We’ll be better, more well-rested and patient parents when we’re awake!
I’m totally rationalizing away some poor parenting that could result in plenty of negative consequences down the line, but what do you expect? I was the third kid in my family. I’m lucky to be alive.
I recently shared a tweet decrying the daily balance parents are forced to strike between their kids’ lives and their own.
My tweet was about the well-deserved oasis of adult time that falls between those few hours when my oldest son goes to sleep and when I go to sleep, and about how that gap is shrinking as he gets older and stays up later.
When I shared it on Twitter, a fellow parent responded succinctly: Parenting is overrated.
But if I really think about it, if I really weigh the pros and cons, do I think it’s all worth it? Or is parenting overrated?
We already know parents are overrated. But that much is obvious; in many ways we aren’t as important to our kids as we think we are. The question of whether parenting is overrated for the parent is a little trickier. Using the age-old technique of listing Pros and Cons, I’m going to attempt to break it down.
I don’t want this to get too long, so let’s run through just a small sampling of some of the negative stuff first.
Is Parenting Overrated: Pros and Cons
Cons: Pregnancy, coming up with a name, sympathy pains, labor, no sex for six weeks, sleep deprivation, sleep training, dirty diapers, breastfeeding vs. formula, a billion accessories, clothes they immediately outgrow, tantrums, vaccinations, SIDS, milestone stress, teething, whining, screaming, terrible twos, threenagers, constant anxiety, too much clutter, contentious dinners, car seats, juice box stains, Goldfish everywhere, diaper blowouts, potty training, daycare diseases, allergies, random biting, spit up, puke, hand-foot-mouth, preschool selection, nap jail, other parents, birthday parties, getting toddlered, being a role model, no time to yourself, never sleeping in, parenting experts, they aren’t independent enough, they grow up too fast, stressing over their screen time, dealing with gender stereotypes, dealing with bullying, helping with homework, play-dates, co-sleeping, sibling rivalry, going to movies, going to restaurants, going on vacation, flying, judgment, peer pressure, common core, bedtime struggles, wake-up struggles, being a role model, scheduling, carpools, babysitters, crumbs, infinite laundry, snow days, sick days, too many kids’ movies, too many toys, summer camp, sleepovers, discipline, instilling a work ethic, teaching real values, trying not to spoil them, lack of respect, not enough exercise, parenting advice, puberty, learning to drive, learning not to drink, saying no to drugs, dealing with dating, getting into college, paying for college, the fact that even when they get out of college you’re still out of your mind with anxiety, it never ends, even when they’re forty and have kids of their own, believe me, ask your parents, the stress is insane and never-ending and your life is basically a giant fifty-year nightmare.
Okay, now for the good parts!
Wait, I just remembered some more cons, one sec…
Cons: Braces, LEGO shrapnel, non-stop talking, racing for the bus, dressing for the snow, bath time, so many trains, separation anxiety, video games, getting them to tell you about their day, dealing with the aftermath of spending time with grandma, advice from people without kids, Play-Doh everywhere, headaches from loud toys, headaches from loud boys, headaches from dance parties, answering 8 billion “Why?” questions, hearing 8 billion “No!” answers, panicking about climate change, panicking about politics, wondering what the world will be like for them in ten/twenty/thirty years.
Now for the good parts.
Shit, one more Con: Getting a vasectomy.
Whew, all set, I promi– I forgot about lice! Sheesh, that’s a big con.
Okay, finally time for the positives! Let’s do this.
Pros: Every once in a while, your kid gives you a hug.
Last week, in the wake of President Trump’s 5000th example (“shithole”) of why he’s both the worst president of all time and one of the worst people on earth, I posted a few “political” posts on Facebook and Instagram.
Almost immediately, I got jumped on for violating a make-believe oath I never took about only using my accounts to provide an escape for strangers I’ll never meet.
Please allow me to not apologize.
Last August, before the election even took place, I responded to similar criticism with a blog post entitled “Politics Is Personal.” In the year that’s followed Donald Trump’s installation as president, it’s become increasingly clear that even suggesting that the things happening aren’t relevant to almost all of our daily lives is flat-out absurd.
This isn’t even necessarily about what side you’re on. My opinion on Trump is no secret, but the one positive aspect of his abominable administration is the way it’s mobilizing people who were heretofore content to ignore politics. It’s much less ignorable these days, which is why I’m not ignoring it.
I write about parenting, because, as you may have guessed, I have children. Children who are hopefully going to be living in this world long after I’m gone. Policies that are enacted today, and chain reactions that are set in motion over the next few years, have the potential to change their lives, their country, and the world they – and their kids – grow up in, for potentially generations down the line.
So I’m gonna continue to talk about stuff that scares and appalls me, even if it’s “political,” even if it means occasionally skipping a joke to do so, and even if it means losing readers who get irritated that I have a different opinion from them, or are annoyed that I’m mentioning things they were trying to avoid. I want to do what I can to prevent the world from turning into even more of a nightmare by the time my kids – and yours – are my age (23, if you’re wondering!), and using my voice and my “platform,” such as it is, despite the fact that I’m usually focused on being funny, is the best way I can think of to do it.
How blind do you have to be to pretend that what’s happening right now doesn’t impact every aspect of our lives? How ignorant do you have to be to act like it’s no big deal? How privileged do you have to be to be able to ignore it?
Maybe you’re not affected by the immigration crackdown and dissolution of DACA that is upending the lives of millions of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, through no fault of their own. Okay, fine, you’re lucky.
Maybe you’re not affected by the changes to healthcare and the destruction of Obamacare that is leaving millions uninsured and countless others endangered. Okay, cool, good for you.
Maybe you’re not affected by the new tax code that does little but reward the rich, further empower corporations, and damage the middle class. Okay. And congratulations!
Maybe you’re not affected by increasing tensions with North Korea, or the brazen indifference to and outright dismissal of climate change, or the constant discrediting and threatened muffling of the press, or the shocking intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. Maybe you’re not bothered by the president’s perpetual lying, overt racism, repeatedly substantiated misogyny, blatant corruption, probable treason, and obvious ignorance. To each their own I guess. I mean, WOW, but okay.
That’s a long, sprawling list that reaches into virtually every corner of American life, in one way or another. Writing about all this is less about “getting political” and more about paying attention. If not a single one of those issues above impacts your life, or simply gives you cause for concern in one way or another, you either live a supremely privileged and sheltered life and/or you lack any and all empathy for fellow human beings. Because even if they don’t affect or impact you, they definitely affect someone you know, or someone you at least know exists, whether you want to or not.
#Sorrynotsorry if I took you out of your bubble for a second, but if you’re ignoring what’s happening right now, and if you want to keep ignoring it rather than speak out or do something, anything at all, to fight back, then we have nothing in common. You want to keep your blinders on, go watch cartoons! Or go to a parenting humor page that is worried about alienating readers. I’m just not, and I never have been.
When I started all this Dad and Buried stuff, I didn’t anticipate peppering my social feeds with political screeds against the president, but what about this moment could have been anticipated? (Shut up, Sinclair Lewis! You too, Philip Roth!)
I understand that occasionally wanting to escape the news for a minute does not necessarily equate to ignoring reality. But if I can concede that I understand your aggravation at coming to my page for a joke about toddlers and instead seeing a comment about Trump, then you should be able to understand that I’m an individual person beholden to no one by myself. That I have opinions and reactions that are just as valid as yours, and that sometimes those things appear on my FB page and my Instagram feed and my blog.
If running into one of those opinions on my so-called “parenting humor” accounts irritates you, or makes you uncomfortable, or simply reminds you of something you’re trying to escape? My bad. Also, WAKE UP, before there literally is no escape. RESIST!
Otherwise just scroll down past the political stuff. I’m sure the next post is a joke anyway.
It’s a reminder that he’s only seven years old, that he’s still just a little boy, that he’s still learning about the world, about himself, about me, and that most of the stuff he does that drives me crazy is the same exact stuff other little boys do.
It’s a reminder that he’s still adjusting to having a little brother, to sharing his toys, his home, even his parents.
And it’s a reminder that I’m only human myself! That I’m still learning about the world, about myself, about my seven-year-old and his little brother, and about being a good parent.
I’m not a perfect person, and I’m definitely not a perfect father. I make as many mistakes as my kids do, despite the fact that I have a good thirty-five years more experience.
The rubber band helps me remember that, and helps me remember that that’s okay, that parenting is a process, that it’s okay to get some things wrong, so long as you keep trying and you learn from those mistakes.
It’s a reminder that I need to do better, that I need to keep my voice down, that I need to stay calm for longer, that I need to say yes more often.
It’s a reminder that I don’t want my kids to grow up scared of their dad, or to think of me as the “grumpy” parent.
The idea behind the rubber band is that when I catch myself forgetting those things, when I find myself engaging in my bad parenting habits, forgetting to be patient and understanding with my kids, I pull it back and give myself a flick on the wrist. It’s supposed to act as a deterrent.
I’m sure this isn’t an original idea, but I don’t think that matters. It’s new to me, and I feel like I need it.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to flick my wrist much so far. Not because I haven’t screwed up, quite the contrary. (Yesterday was “Take Your Kid To Work Day” at my office; my patience meter was maxed out by 10am!)
But in the week that I’ve been wearing the rubber band, just its presence has been enough to keep me mindful of my parenting, and my relationship with my children, and of the kind of dad I want to be.
Besides, every once in a while it snags an arm hair and wow, that’s painful in itself!
I don’t do sappy and sentimental. It’s just not me.
Instead, I mock, affectionately, and sarcastically, and honestly too. This can lead to communication breakdowns with all manner of people, from friends and family to coworkers, waitresses, even strangers. When you rely on sarcasm, it makes being sincere twice as difficult, both because you’re less comfortable with it and because no one believes you!
When it comes to my kids, and this blog, I occasionally take a break from myself and get all into my feelings. To make sure people buy it, I typically do it on their birthdays.
Today is The Hammer’s second birthday. Brace yourself.
Top 10 Reasons Why I Love My Son, Part Two
1st(TIE): His personality
It’s unformed, but already different from his older brother’s, and that’s both exciting and terrifying. Detective Munch was just as happy as The Hammer is at this stage, but he was nowhere near as fearless. Yes, all toddlers are fearless (and stupid!), but The Hammer has the kind of cold-blooded recklessness you only see in sociopaths. It’s fun and the opposite of fun at the same time. While his brother has grown into a cautious, imaginative 7-year-old, it’s looking like The Hammer is going to be the type to throw caution to the wind and rarely consider anything beyond what’s right in front of him. Which is going to be very lucrative for my therapist.
1st(TIE): His smile
His smile is straight-up infectious! There’s a reason I once made a collage of him and Tom Cruise smiling, the dude brightens up a room! He even makes me smile, which is no small task.
1st(TIE): His independence
As opposed to his brother at this age, The Hammer isn’t talking much yet. But with both a fierce independent streak and a brother around who inherently understands him, he doesn’t need to. He makes himself incredibly well understood to everyone without needing to speak, and besides, he doesn’t seem to care much if you know what he’s up to. He’s gonna do it anyway.
1st(TIE): His laugh
The only thing more infections than his smile is his laugh, and the only thing more infectious than that is when he and his brother are laughing together. The only thing less infectious is when they’re both screaming.
In fact, some of the time, I downright love the little jerks! They’re fun in very specific, individual ways, which is delightful, and they’re annoying in mostly general, every-kid-is-like-that ways, which is forgivable.
But I do hate parenting, at least some of the time. It’s a tough gig. And referring to it as a “gig” is part of the problem. Because parenthood is not a job. And treating it like one – like a chore to begrudgingly complete – is bad for everyone.
You’ve had jobs. You know that they’re like, even the best ones. You have a boss, you have responsibilities, you have a schedule.
All of those things apply to being a parent too, albeit to different degrees.
As a parent, your bosses are tiny and stupid and need to be protected from themselves (ok, depending on your job this might not be that different.) Your responsibilities are unpredictable and gross and someone else’s health/future/entire life depends on you getting them done, and done right. And your schedule is erratic, exhausting, and 24/7/365. For the rest of your life.
Those similarities are the reason I frequently refer to parenting as a gig, or a job. But raising kids is both more important and more fulfilling than most jobs – not to mention more difficult! – while simultaneously being more boring and, in many ways, less rewarding.
A job comes with money. And healthcare. And overtime, if you’re lucky. And vacation! Those are all tangible benefits, and not a single one is part of raising kids. Parents don’t get paid, we don’t get time-off, we don’t get our visits to the doctor subsidized. In fact, raising kids costs money, steals all your free time, and forces exponentially more trips to the doctor. Which isn’t to say there aren’t perks. (You know what they are, don’t make me list them. That’s so boring.)
But, like your job, parenting is hard work, and a pain in the ass, and it’s something you have to do everyday, even when you don’t feel like it. Unlike your job, if you win the lottery you still have to deal with your kids. Less often, maybe, but you can’t just stop going into the office. You live with them!
For most of us, when it comes down to it, it’s a choice. We’re forced to work, no one forces us to have children (except maybe “society”). And that’s part of the reason I get flack for whining about my kids, regardless of the fact that I’m usually joking. I should be grateful for children are a blessing! And I should shut up and stop complaining, because I chose this life! And they’re right, at least about the second thing. I did choose it, and sometimes I should shut up.
As I’ve gotten old(er), I’ve realized that a lot of life comes down to perspective and outlook. Like I tell my 7-year-old, you can’t always change what’s happening to you, you can only change how you react to it. If I truly believe that, and I do, then by constantly reacting to the drudgery of parenting with frustrated sighs, sarcastic complaints, and irritated eye-rolls, I’m probably infecting my entire approach! They say faking a smile often begets a real smile, so it stands to reason that pretending I don’t hate parenting so much might actually help me stop hating parenting so much!
Unfortunately, being positive and optimistic isn’t really my forte. It’s also a lot less funny. Especially when one of my positive things is drawing on the wall and the other one refuses to eat the pizza he specifically asked for twenty minutes ago and I’m supposed to roll with that shit and not make snarky jokes about it.
Parenting may not be a job, but I definitely need a promotion.