Enough of it all
The passenger side door of my new car slammed against the oncoming vehicle - promptly bursting into flames.
The car that rammed my own wheeled around - tires screeching - accelerated back towards the smoldering heap of rubber and metal that remained of my car. It was pulverized into ashes by the other driver, who happened to be my cackling oldest son, Cooper.
Game over for me.
It was at this moment, it hit me (not unlike that video game car that pummeled mine). I realized I need to teach my kids how to ride a bike properly. This video game landscape we played on only reinforced my need to instill road driving skills.
One problem: my bike skills and knowledge are almost non-existent.
As a kid, my parents repeatedly attempted to teach me how to ride a bike. I had zero interest, and after humoring them with a couple of lessons on the street near my house, I resisted the hobby completely. They finally waved the while flag on Project Pedaling Josh.
There are some experiences in life that don’t get much attention. (I did, for the record, finally break down and learn to ride a bike in college.) However, with Cooper’s interest in pretty much any sort of vehicle - motor or not - I was put on my heels in a slight panic. I was asking questions of myself.
Was my disinterest in biking setting him back? Will he miss out on friendships built churning those spokes from house to house? Am I denying the planet the next BMX great?
This feeling of swift unease happens from time to time for me. One might call it parent imposter syndrome, which is essentially the nagging belief you don’t have any business being a functioning mom or dad.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not about being a “bad parent” as much as it is a feeling that I am incomplete. It makes me ask: “Am I doing enough?”
This pandemic, which continues to limit many things, only seems to act as an extra bear trap to dance around when it comes to getting my kids valuable experiences.
So, what have I been up to lately to pass down crucial knowledge and practical know-how? We have lots of fun, but even the things we do together make me question if I am making the “practical decision” to help him grow.
We play video games, as the aforementioned vehicular carnage suggests. Thought in my head: “Should I be teaching him how to properly put up a tent instead?”
We enjoy taking long drives to go pick up donuts and then run around the beach in the middle of an icy cold winter. Thought in my head: “Instead of donuts and beaches, wouldn’t a great parent be researching the best ways to teach him how to whittle wood to build his own birdhouse?”
Even when fun days are present, I can’t help but always wonder if it is enough. Or if every choice is the right one.
I struggle with it still, but do finally now have a plan to help me out of these mental blocks. Whenever this feeling washes over me, Josh, (yes, I am talking to myself - he's a decent listener) remember these three things…
1. I am incomplete, yet I am right on track. The perfect, Renaissance dad does not exist. Quite frankly, anyone walking around believing he has it all figured out is probably not too fun at parties and would have to be too obsessed with perfection that enjoying fatherhood is left impossible.
Keep trying. You will never master it all. Just be really decent at a few things and share it willingly.
It’s perfectly fine to feel some incompleteness, but it doesn’t define you. In fact, I would argue it only exists as doubt in your head in the first place because you care so much.
And when faced with teaching Cooper how to bike, dust off your own and start up Project Pedaling Josh Part 2. It’s bound to be better than the original.
2. Cooper lives here. Talk to him. That’s it. That’s the second tip for myself.
One would say I have unparalleled access to him since Cooper lives here and while school and work happen under my roof, see him roughly 23 hours per day.
I need to be better about asking Cooper what he enjoys - and if it is doable (He recently mentioned wanting to drive a flying rocket around the planet. Hard pass for me.) - put in the effort to learn about it.
Come on, Josh. If you can find DIY videos on how to best convert your unfinished basement into an opulent palace, you can find some on bicycle training.
3. You are a donut parent. Relax, Josh...dad...me...you know who you are.
I will encounter plenty of topics that I have subpar knowledge of, talent for or money to grow better at. But no matter what faults may seem to popup, you bring so much to the table.
You day-drive for donuts. You run around on beaches in the winter.
In fact, it makes Cooper happy, so that makes it everything.
For my readers who may feel some form or sense of foreboding about feeling incomplete sometimes, do not fret. You are not alone. I Implore you to find your inner donut parent.
You are not every parent. You are this one.
So, chin up. When that next video game car of his comes to pummel you one more time into the wall, remember how much success this moment brings. Not every moment is a make-or-break exam on if you are aceing some non-existent quiz in parenthood.
Those moments are enough. Sometimes just grabbing that controller is doing more than enough.
And heads up when you do grab that controller. That car of his comes fast.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.