If 2020 had a fragrance, it would smell like uncertainty.
I am not sure if any candle companies know how to accurately bottle a fearful emotion, but it has to smell better than the alternative “giant murder hornet” candles.
Our time and place in the world right now is on shaky ground as we are beginning to look at the ways we can emerge from our COVID-19 cocoons and re-enter the world as we knew it.
But there are two things I can look to in times like these and bank on: the color of the sky and the amazing partnership that is my parents.
My mom and dad are celebrating 40 years of marriage this June. It’s a romance that began in Kmart when both of them worked there during school (many, many jokes made already about love blooming under a blue light special).
Not only is that chance meeting the start of a lifelong victory I like to call…well…me, but unbeknownst to them, the official launch of a decades-long partnership that has given my two siblings and me a front row seat to top-shelf parenting.
There were times I know I didn’t appreciate all they did for me (See some teenage years, I am sure). But time has a way of lending perspective. As a parent for almost seven years, their fingerprints can be seen all over what I at least aspire to be.
I have learned at the Sue and David Farnsworth School of Parenting. Here is a short list of parenting pluses I have picked up as a student…
Don’t keep score
This is a really hard one, given I am obsessed with sports and sports statistics and cherish every opportunity to use stats to make a point. It’s easy to get carried away trying to make things “fair” (i.e. the same amount of downtime when taking care of the kids, money spent on self, etc.).
A real teammate has all other teammates’ backs. Tallying up some fake score on “who has gotten more” is an exercise in futility.
If you have a spouse, first understand how lucky you are to have a partner in crime. Secondly, “fairness” is not a quid pro quo, it’s a feeling that you want to help the other spouse be the best parent possible as well. That might mean a couple extra shifts putting the kids to bed.
Eat dessert first, and maybe, again second
My parents liked to tout the occasional “backwards dessert days” where the dessert is eaten first (which, by the way, is winning all sorts of accolades with my two goofballs here when we do it).
I have also taken this method of thinking to be a metaphor for flexible parenting. We all have our ways of parenting. Sometimes, though, you just have to cut right to the enjoyment. Sometimes, you need to skip what you think is always a necessary evil (that would be you, plate of vegetables) and inject enjoyment into your day (hello, baked goods section!).
In other words, you don’t always have to rule the kids with an iron fist. It is possible to curb your own rules once in a while and cut yourself some slack—and maybe an extra slice of ice cream cake to help cut down on stress and have fun.
Am I overthinking this metaphor? Maybe. But it comes with a side of pie, so don’t ruin this for me.
Don’t go to bed angry Part 2
We’ve probably all heard this piece of advice regarding spouses and making peace before the sun goes down. While I don’t remember my parents outright stating this advice, they practice it.
There have been nights where all I want is for my goofballs to plant their heads on their pillows and have them “really think about that bad thing you did!”
Chances are, at the end of the day, they were tired. You probably are, too.
My parents always made an effort to make my last impression of the day a good one. Whether it be a few words of sage advice, or just talking about their optimism about tomorrow, it went a long way.
Leave their heads on pillows on good terms.
‘Have fun’ not the other one
When the dreaded time comes to part and leave my parents’, they almost never say “goodbye” or “so long” or a third phrase that says “this is where we leave.”
Almost never. Even on the phone.
Instead, they always say “have fun.” It’s a small thing, but the small things are what parents do to help us through good and bad times. “Have fun” is their way of injecting optimism into what we’re all doing next.
“Have fun” is permission to be positive, even if life is trending sideways.
I could fill this entire magazine issue with their words. Maybe it’s because I’m biased. Maybe it’s because I only paid attention at the “good” times.
But, then again, maybe I was lucky enough to be surrounded by two imperfect people, who forged ahead to produce so many more good times than bad through trying, sacrifice and genuine love.
My parents will be the first to admit they didn’t always have the right answers. But they are a team always game to find one together.
To my parents, congrats. Thank you for your example. Thank you for being a solid partnership in the best and shakiest of times.
Cheers, and have fun until I see you next.
No one holds a candle to your example—giant murder hornet scented or not.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, son of parents celebrating an incredible 40-year stint of marriage, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.