Tuesday, April 8, 2014

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6 Reasons I’m Screwing Up This Whole Parenting Thing

Photo by Joan Venema

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Every day, I worry that I’m screwing up my kids. I suppose this is all part of being human, but at the same time, parents are supposed to be extra human… or something. We are supposed to be this faultless superhuman thing. Or at least that’s the way I used to view parents. I expected them to be better and stronger and more moral than I was. But the fact is, as a parent, I screw up all the time. And I always seem to be thinking back on my actions, realizing that I am a poor to mediocre father, and that my kids are going to grow up with little aspirations and future success, and one day they will be on some Jerry Springer style daytime show, telling the audience that the reason they slept with their spouses’ cousin while high on LSD was because of their father.

Am I over reacting? Probably. I do that. Anyway, here’s a list:

1.     I yell at them: Check it out… Sometimes my kids don’t listen. I assume that never happens to you… right? Oh! You have the same problem. Well… that’s just crazy. So what do you do after asking them to clean up the living room four or five times, and on the sixth time you find your son playing in the bathroom sink, and your daughter putting Hello Kitty underwear on a stuffed bear? That’s right, you get pissed and start yelling. And then, after the kids look at you like you’re a complete troll, you find yourself using the same statements your parents used when angry: “Why don’t you just listen the first time! Then I wouldn’t have to yell!” You feel like a complete over the top ass and wonder if you are turning into your own mother.

2.     I want them to be my friend more than I want to be their father: I can think of a million times that I’ve been like, “You know what, screw cleaning the living room. Let’s eat cookies and ice cream on the sofa and watch the Simpsons.” And I will admit, sometimes (mostly when Mel isn’t around) we do just that. But in the moment, as we are stuffing our faces in the living room (a room where food is forbidden), I feel like I’m neglecting to teach them respect for rules and responsibility, and probably turning them into couch-surfing mooches.

3.     I am an inconsistent punisher: I can think of a million times that I’ve handed down a punishment or said no to something, and Mel has taken me aside and said, “Do you really think you needed to get angry over that?” And the answer is almost always, “No.” Sometimes I’m in a bad mood, sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I just don’t care, and I think it makes me inconsistent with my punishments. I worry that I’m completely screwing up my kids because of this.

4.     I often tell the kids no to things that I do myself: I can’t count how many times I’ve told Norah that she can’t have a snack after dinner, and then, after she is in bed, eaten two bowls of cereal and a doughnut. Tristan can only have one can of soda a week, while I drink five or six a day. I will tell them they have to wear clothes in the living room while I’m hanging out on the sofa in my underwear. I’d compliment myself on a spectacular fart, but then get mad at Tristan and Norah for singing a song about farts. I could go on, but you can probably see that I don’t necessarily lead by example. 

5.     I allow the kids to manipulate me: Once Norah drew on the only nice chair we have in our living room with permanent red marker. I was flaming pissed. But when I confronted her about it, she looked up at me with big blue eyes and said, “I’m sowry, Daddy,” in a voice that was a mix between Minnie Mouse and a song bird. A switch flipped inside me from rage to tender, and all I wanted to do was give her a hug. I call this ability to change my mood Norah’s Cute Powers, and I wonder if God gave children the ability to melt their parents’ hearts to keep us from killing them.

6.     I bribe them to get what I want: Just a few weeks ago Tristan was dragging his feet in getting ready for church. I didn’t really have time, nor did I feel up to, fighting with him. So instead I bribed him with three cookies. He came back with a counter argument, asking for the three cookies and additional screen time. I accepted and within five minutes he was in a shirt and tie. I will admit that for a six year old, he has a good understanding of negotiation. However, I worry that I am making him into the kind of person who won’t do anything without a payment. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley


SleepDeprivedDad said...

I have to say that as a 28 year old father with a 4 month old son and adopted 7 year old daughter reading your experiences does provide a measure of relief lol.