Most days, I can look at my parenting abilities and think to myself “you know, you’re doing a pretty good job…high five, self (which I guess would be a clap)”. Yes, my brain thinks in parenthetical asides.
Last Saturday, though — not so much.
I realize that a lot of it is probably in my own head, and that in reality it’s not nearly as bad as I perceive it to be. But does that really matter? If I feel like a failure, then for all intents and purposes, I am one.
So, why do I feel like I’m failing at parenting?
My 6-year-old son is an amazing human being. I’ve written about him in other posts. He’s taken the birth and constant presence of his baby brother (who is now 13 months old) extremely well. He’s gotten a little jealous, and I’m sure he feels a bit neglected at times, but overall he’s adjusted very well.
I hadn’t been very nice to him in the couple of days leading up to Saturday, though. It’s shitty. He hadn’t done anything to warrant my crappy attitude, aside from just being a kid — and a damn good one, at that.
So it’s pretty much all on me
Here I am, Mr. Grumpelstiltskin, being a huge asshole to him. His crimes? Asking me to go out somewhere with him, to play a game with him, asking if he can play on his iPad or watch something. Typical kid stuff.
And we did go out somewhere on Saturday. We live near a mostly dried out creek and he loves going down there to play. So we did. He scootered and I skateboarded. It was actually a lot of fun (I don’t get nearly enough exercise).
A lot of the time before and after that, though, I was unnecessarily mean to him. I even told myself to stop doing it, because he didn’t deserve that. But still, I continued to shower him with my filthy attitude. Why? I’m the adult and should be able to shake it off.
At one point, I called him a pest. I don’t even remember what he was doing at the time. It was something pesky (are those two words even related) but I shouldn’t have said that.
I also told him that, as a parent, it wasn’t my job to play with him or entertain him. I explained that I would like him to play independently for more than 10 minutes. I think that’s fair, but I didn’t have to be so blunt about it.
He actually asked me what my job was, then? That got me to thinking.
What would be in my job description?
Of course part of the job is to keep the child alive, healthy and safe. That’s the bare minimum. And sometimes as a parent, that’s a checkmark in the W column. My kid made it to bedtime — score!
Then we’re expected to teach our children, help them to learn and to think creatively. In a perfect world, we’d instill values like kindness, fairness, compassion and generosity.
I still think that kids these days don’t spend enough time playing on their own, exploring their neighborhoods, running outside with friends and just generally keeping themselves busy without a parent having to entertain them.
But if I’m being honest, it would be somewhere in the job description, I think. At least given the type of parent I typically am (on the good days).
So when I said “it’s not my job to play with you or entertain you” that wasn’t entirely accurate. Of course it shouldn’t be up to me all the time, but on a semi-regular basis I should be expected to play, entertain, amuse or otherwise occupy my son with fun/interesting/exciting activities.
I just have to remember that someday he probably won’t even want to do anything with me, and I’ll kick myself for not having seized the opportunity when it was there.