Father’s Day advice to my younger self…

So, Father’s Day is coming… it’s a thing. I plan to do some cool stuff with my dad and my kids on Sunday. It’ll be a good day. I am looking forward to it. But I don’t know that I always did…

When I was a  younger man I don’t think I gave my parents the respect they deserve for how hard this job really is.

There have been times in the past when I did not respect the hard road that parenting can be. I didn’t have an  understanding of what my parents went through. How tough it is to just fly by the seat of your pants through it all because there is no manual – repeat THERE IS NO PARENTING MANUAL. Oh there are books on the subject, ginormous book stores full of them, Amazon warehouses filled to the brim. But, trust me, you read three books on parenting and you get three different opinions, read five books and get six opinions (it a quantum entanglement thing, I never quite understood).

After fifteen or so years of going through hell as I like to call the early stages of child rearing, I realized… there are several billion parents in the world who know nothing at all about actually doing the job. No training. No formal knowledge transfer. Not even a decent Youtube video. We are all just bluffing, faking it until we make it, or until Jr. becomes a neurosurgeon so we can retire to the Maldives (my son wants to be a writer… I am screwed). I am pretty sure the kids never figured it out or there would have been a mutiny- at least a more formal mutiny that the ones staged nightly at bedtime- you know the kind with actual pitchforks, torches, a tribunal, burning at the stake… that sort of thing.

I consider myself extraordinarily lucky that all four of my children have turned out as  awesome as they have- all four are accomplished caring adults that are engaged in the world around them. I did what I could to help them become who they could be, but at the time it never really felt like I was doing enough. Truth is, there were times when I felt selfish about the amount of time I didn’t want to spend with them… I felt guilt. I did not feel like a good parent.

Then a year or so ago I had a friend who is a newer parent that expressed similar feelings. I was a little surprised because everyone I know who also knows them considers this person to be an excellent parent. In trying to help, I gave the following advice about feeling secure as a parent:

You’re not supposed to feel that way, a little bit of self-doubt is OK – it makes you better at what you do. The important thing is to have the support of friends and family that tell you how awesome you are doing (also, I know that a lot of friends and family don’t necessarily ‘get’ this… so make sure you keep surrounding yourself with some who do).

One of the striking things to me when I became a parent was finding out how many ‘experts’ on parenting come out of the woodwork- and how many of them knew exactly how I was doing it wrong. It seemed like there might be a billboard out there somewhere that only I couldn’t see that said “Have you shared your parenting expertise with Robert today?”

It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day drudge of it all. Sometimes you are so close to it you can’t really see the progress and it gets disheartening. It can be a maddeningly slow process, but your children are not the people they were when you first became their parent. There is progress even if it is hard for you to see, I promise you.

One of the things nobody tells you about becoming a parent (seriously, there is a secret handshake do NOT tell any non-parents), and this was the hardest part for me to get… Even if you somehow did everything exactly right every time (impossible) your children still have ability to break your heart at any time. You can guide them, teach them, give them the gift of insatiable curiosity, you can even try to beat them into submission (metaphorically of course) – but at the end of the day the choices they make belong to them alone. <<Seriously, this can’t get out – it could end human existence if this information got into the wrong hands.>>

You will be there to help recover when they fall, but nothing you can do will keep them from falling.

I hate that.

All my kids are grown up, so it was easy to provide my 20/20 hindsight. If I could go back in time, I’d probably tell myself something like this little piece of advice. But, knowing what an asshole I can be, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

My point is this: I don’t much care for silly haulmark holidays… Father’s day included. I would rather spend time with my family celebrating each other on regular days. But sometimes a Father’s day or Mother’s day holiday is a good time to step back and take note of the hard work that the people around you have done to get you where you are today… who you are today!

Not everybody has traditional roles in their lives sometimes those people are grandfathers or uncles or friends… hell, sometimes those people are your kids. Tell them you love them. Tell them you forgive them for being terrible at doing the job of raising you, because one day you just might be just as poor at raising some little ankle biters yourself.

And with that the production booth has informed me that my internet schmaltz quota has been filled for the day folks, so long and thanks for all the fish!

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