You are a bad parent. Yes you.
You feed your kids crappy food. It may be all they eat but you allow it.
They drink too much juice at bedtime.
They stay up too late.
You use the television to babysit. And it is Spongebob.
You avoid some fun things because you don’t want the stress of managing the swirling mass of kids.
Does one have a saggy diaper that needs to be changed? You probably missed that because you were staring at a smartphone huh?
You forgot to brush their teeth before bed.
Your three year old just said, “Shit!” in context.
Your kid handed you a book at bedtime and you said, “Not tonight, daddy is tired.”
You just made your kid cry for wanting your attention. You are frustrated because they want to spend time with you and you are busy with something stupid. They only want you to look at the picture they just drew for you. It is the two of you holding hands…. I hope you hate yourself. It’s a wonder that your kids don’t already.
What a terrible parent…
These are all things I want to scream at myself from time to time.
I get inside my own head big time. I sincerely hope none of you do this but, I suspect that isn’t true.
Life is such a whirlpool of being late, putting things off, and waking up tired to start it all again the same way. I watch myself being a bad parent and I hear the words that come out of my mouth but somehow it keeps happening. I try to balance the bad with extra effort on the good. Maybe I missed reading a book the night before so I will read two books the next.
I know my self-criticism is too hard but it piles up and I can’t help it. Besides, I look at comment wars on Facebook and I know that someone else is probably saying those things about me anyway.
A true first world problem is that we have the luxury of obsessing over stupid small details.
We took a short vacation recently and managed to slow things down. At first, things seemed like more of the same just at a different address. Then we went to tour a historic area and we managed to spend a beautiful day hanging out and taking things in. I was reminded of how hard life used to be and still is in some places. The area was Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Our first stop was at a log cabin. There was one four sided room with a fireplace on one wall and a door on every other. Just a floor, four walls, and a roof. Made out of trees cut down nearby. There were no marks on the wall where pictures had hung. There was no insulation under the raised floor. It wasn’t wealth or poverty at the time, it was just a house on the edge of the wilderness. The soil wasn’t even good for farming, hence the song “Rocky Top”.
We continued on our way and the next stop was a church and a cemetery. This location really sat with me for a while. The girls played on the old piano and the worn pews. Laughing and shouting and being loud. We took a few pictures and walked out the back door and strolled along the edge of the cemetery.
My wife and I were curious how long people lived in those days so we started reading the dates on the tombstones. More than half of the grave markers were for children. Many of them stillborn and many of the others were under the age of three. What made it worse was that several had the same last name and were in sequential years. Those parents lost children year after year and kept going because staying alive was all they knew how to do. I doubt they discussed name brand versus generic or if harsh chemicals in Desitin were harmful.
That night I taught Jane how to play pool. She is really good at aiming and with a little arm length she will probably be a good player. We played completely made up card games.
The next day we spent our hard earned money on Build-A-Bear animals for each of the girls.
We rode a Ferris wheel, played in an arcade, and ate pizza.
That night I caught Supermom working a puzzle and the older two even learned to play Stratego. Prima the five year old ballerina is actually a formidable strategic planner. We watched Ernest Scared Stupid and they loved hearing him call a scary troll, “Booger Lips” and “Butt Breath”. I relaxed a little and realized that they are older and smarter than I wanted to admit.
I learned that I might need to work on parts of my parenting but not necessarily the same areas I have been worried about. Enjoying each other and the fact that we live in one of the best times in history. Despite what the media tells us, things are better than they have ever been. We expect kids to live past birth. We worry about organic labeling. We argue if spanking, timeout, or bribery are damaging to fragile egos. How lucky are we?
I get the privilege of putting the girls to bed every night and making sure I pass out kisses and hugs equally. Sometimes one of them will randomly say, “I love you daddy” for no specific reason.
Maybe I’m not the monster I paint myself to be after all. I sincerely hope that nobody else is either. Maybe we should all reach out and congratulate each other once in a while for keeping our kids alive or say, “I noticed your kid owns some clothes, good job.”
For people who are wearing themselves to a nub and feeling like a terrible parent, this post is for you. Slow down even if its just for a day. You’re welcome.
Underdaddy to the rescue.