The faint hint of a smile had already crept out of the corner of my mouth.
The last bit of energy I had was spent trying to keep from full-on belly laughing. I mentally tried to compose myself.
Deep breaths. Think of non-funny things like politics or those dad jokes you tell the kids. Okay, Josh, just answer the statement that was just placed before you.
“Thanks,” I said now in control of my facial expressions. “I’m not sure about all that, but thanks.”
It was not so much a question sent my way but more of an extremely kind sentiment. An acquaintance of mine had been told that I write in this space for baystateparent. She expressed to me, “oh, wow, that’s great. That’s wonderful! You must know a ton about kids and be an amazing parent!”
Knowing this person well enough, I could tell the statement was sincere and not sarcastic, but couldn’t help but think that sarcasm is how I would say that same thing to myself.
I’d even throw in a little golf clap and an “aren’t you so wonderful, Josh?” just to ensure I was not getting too much of a big head after this statement.
Perspective is a fickle, wondrous thing. Sure, I love my kids something fierce, but the concept of me as this tour de force of parental greatness is just not something that feels authentic. I try. I fight for them. I do what I can, but the greatest of adjectives didn’t feel reserved for me.
Perhaps my acquaintance was thinking I had a complex educational background in child psychology or conducted years of research into applied biology of the human mind.
Spoiler alert: Nope.
Also, I don’t know what I am doing. Parenting, that is.
The second that little human being bursts onto the scene, you can feel the need to be bigger, better and all-knowing to help that tiny dude or dudette staring back. I read a lot of helpful books about preparing myself for when that fateful day would come.
They were helpful. I knew much more than before opening the book. But once that newborn stares back at you, all the intelligent book knowledge in the world cannot possibly account for every curveball that comes your way.
And trust me, these kids (knowingly or not) have more curveballs to throw than Fenway Park will ever see.
There are too many variables to ever be on top of everything, but even common issues are things I struggle to lasso to the ground. Becoming a parent certainly does not exclude you from all-too-human flaws.
My paternal flaws are great and numerous…
I let my kids watch screens way too much some days. I am personally clueless as to whether the time I allow them to watch on TVs, phones, computers, tablets, other surfaces that now support some form of entertainment is ruining their brain or rewiring it to be better multi-taskers.
I struggle with answering all sorts of questions (Sorry, Coop. I just don’t know why if you try and stay up to watch the moon at midnight you fall asleep faster).
When I say I am playing with the kids, sometimes I'm staring into my smartphone for mundane reasons. Because, of course, I need to know who is winning that particular college baseball game, at that very moment.
I wouldn’t say I have true anger issues, but if the kids lose the remote control five minutes before the game comes on, I may pull a few strings to ensure the greatest young search party ever assembled finds the prize or bedtime just got a lot earlier.
My kids are great, but I feel way too energized when they are finally off asleep and it's Josh-does-what-he-wants time!!
I don’t feel the rush of guilt I probably should about that last bullet.
This is just a fractional list. I won’t list all of my warts. I don’t want to scare all of you—my fine, outstanding readers—just yet, after all.
I struggle with not being everything to everyone sometimes, especially to my goofballs.
There are, however, two concrete facts I have learned that I can feel confident in divulging to everyone:
Knowing a ton about kids and being a quality parent are not the same things. They may not even be in the same ZIP code. If you are a newer parent, I would still check those books out, for knowledge only.
You will fail. Often. So, what? As appealing as it sounds to be able to control every aspect of my kids’ lives, it won’t happen. And even if it could, it would not make them better people. It would not make any of us resilient. We are not robots and producing kids that act like robots does no one any favors.
So, we all fall short of our own expectations. End of column. Run the credits, right?
Falling short means you are striving. You are trying. Hard. And sometimes, when you do succeed here and there, and win a small victory for your little dude or dudette, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the feeling
Flaws are just part of the initiation of becoming seasoned parents. I wouldn’t go so far to say you should embrace your flaws (except the remote control bullet listed earlier; you need to draw the line somewhere, am I right?).
Embrace the fact that you are not alone in your imperfection. Keep trying. Hard.
I don’t know a ton about kids, but it is in that trying is what makes a parent quite amazing.