Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Richard Black0
Phoning it in as Parents (and Why We Should)
Last week I came across a presumably well meaning parent on Twitter who noted that “There are 7,000 days until your child is 18.” The thought was enough to give me a start. 7,000 after all is a pretty large number when its intended to measure an amount of time and particularly when it’s intended to measure the amount of time one’s going to be spending with a child.
To make matters worse this statement was followed up with a plea to “make every one of the those days count.” I’d be lying if I wasn’t momentarily terrified at the thought. The implications for my health and good looks were simply to horrifying to ignore.
I’m already a shadow of the man I used to be before my daughter was born and I’ve still got more than 4,500 days to go. During the past 2,500 days or so I’ve lost a good portion of my hair, a fair chunk of dignity and a largish portion of something else that doesn’t come to mind (I think it’s the word “vocabulary” but I’m not sure) and apparently a substantial portion of my memory.
It was barely three in the afternoon and I was struck by the overwhelming desire to head straight to bed. I didn’t. I wanted to but I had to pick my daughter up from school and was running fifteen minutes late. Being late on a regular basis is just one of the many ways I make every day count for my daughter but not, I assume, in the way the author of the aforementioned quote had in mind.
Unfortunately a number of parents aren’t as mature as yours truly when it comes to raising children. Some younger or more inexperienced parents may take the exhortation to make every one of 7,000 days count with a deep sense of foreboding and inadequacy. Even I, a man of remarkable insight and emotional stability, find the figure to be fairly daunting. 7,000 days after all is quite a lot of crumbs and whining and puberty.
Don’t get me wrong parenting is full of treasured moments and I wouldn’t trade most of them for anything less than a few hundred dollars. The other day my daughter bit the living shit out of my hand to keep me from snoring and not a week goes by that she doesn’t say “I love mama more than you daddy”. Those however are the good times. The bad ones are pretty much the same but they involve a lot of screaming and, occasionally, some vomit for variety.
Parenting is a fearful proposition that entails enough self doubt without well meaning but moronic statements to “make every day count”. I’m hard pressed to think of a single parent who puts that sort of exhausting amount of effort towards child rearing. I certainly don’t and I think that’s ultimately for the best.
I try at times of course. I’m not perfect. In between my regular duties as a stay at home father I help Darcy with her homework and assist her with puzzles. We play endless hours of games that test my patience to no end and I do it all despite the fact that I’d rather sit on a hot curling iron than play Candyland or put together another puzzle featuring Mermaids or Unicorns or some ungodly hybrid of the two.
Then there are the days when the most I can manage is to plop Darcy in front of a the TV for a three hour “Monster High” binge while I whip up a few bowls of cereal for dinner and that’s all right.
The fact is that even though Darcy’s well being is always first and foremost on my mind I can’t make every day count. As a stay at home father there are trips to the grocery store to take, meals to be cooked, a house to clean (upon occasion) and showers (upon even rarer occasions) to take.
When I’m not cooking meals that no one wants to eat or keeping a home that doesn’t arouse the interest of Child Services I’m ferrying Darcy to gymnastics class, dropping her off and picking her up from school, driving her to the doctor, yelling at her to put on a pair of socks for the fifteenth time, attending her school plays, taking part in her class field trips or performing any one of a countless number of other duties that are necessary when caring for a child. Sometimes that’s the very most I can manage.
Not every day can be “special”. Our children are an important, perhaps the most important, part of our lives. They are not, however, the only important part. I’m an important part of my life as well and in order to care for my daughter as best as I can there are times when I need to tend to myself. Sometimes that means getting creative when making her breakfast because I’ve missed a trip to the store or decided to sleep an extra twenty minutes and sometimes that means Darcy goes to school hungry because she won’t eat olives and a tortilla in the morning. Life is full of disappointment.
Good parents aren’t perfect parents. We can’t be nor should we even try. It’s an untenable concept, a disservice to our children and probably a detriment to society as a whole. Life isn’t
all Disney World and Unicorn farts. The world may revolve around our kids for a brief period of time but it won’t always be that way.
In my humble opinion it’s better to have our children realize that unpleasant fact of life gradually, bit by bit, and within the safety and comfort of a loving home instead of embracing the entirety of the truth in one fell swoop during their first job interview.
You’ll have to excuse me now I’ve got to go. I forgot to buy groceries the other day and Darcy’s teacher wants to know why I packed four frozen waffles for my daughter’s lunch. Instead of responding to her email however I’m just going to take a nap.