I think I’m safe in saying we’re all had that moment. The moment of waking up one day, opening your eyes, stretching and for whatever reason it suddenly hitting you, “Holy crap, I’m somebody’s parent.” Beyond the obvious, it feels like a bit of a mystery how that happened. Did our parents go through this?
When you think about it, what a daunting task it is to hold the shaping of another human being in your hands. If we all thought about it too often, I’m sure we’d half crippled at the idea of how easy we could mess this job up. Calculus was a piece of cake compared to the equation of molding this giggling little pink person into a fully functioning adult. It’s not like the training program for this role is particularly robust.
Let’s add up just what preparation was provided. How do we get ready to be parents? Hmmm. As a young boy, I was consumed by toy cars and trying to figure out if should I be in the Girls Are Stinky or the Who Cares About Girls camps. The early teenage years arrived and suddenly girls didn’t smell that bad, but figuring out how they were different was damn confusing. This was soon to be followed in the later teen years with an intense interest in knowing a little more about those differences, but not having much of a clue on how to go about it. Look up the word clumsy in the dictionary and there’s a picture of every teenage boy ever born (It’s a thick book).
So far, the training program looks like it could use some polishing.
Then came the 20s, which was like one of those blazingly fast, scare the pants off you Driver’s Education movies as life became a collision of changing cities, changing jobs, new friends, old friends, good roommates, bad roommates, the weird guy with the thing on his neck, the purple hair chick, don’t tell your parents about that time with the cops, getting drunk in Prague, being broke but happy and maybe meeting the love of your life (or maybe not). Did we learn anything about parenting yet? It’s all a blur.
And even as life started to stabilize as our 30s dawned, the parenting training still didn’t appear anywhere on our busy schedules. Google parenting manual and it comes up with a one-page book and just contains the words, Wing It! Okay, maybe the words are Do Your Best, but you get the idea. It’s a learn by doing kind of career. Dive in with both feet and hope there’s a bottom.
So after all this helpful preparation, it’s no wonder there’s the occasional day when you wake to a slight panic. This is the greatest responsibility we have in our entire lives, so where does the ability to get through it come from? To be blunt, I have no idea. Please tell me if you figure it out.
At an event for my son’s school the other night, they played a very moving video. It was bursting with great images that every parent loves; kids jumping, bouncing and playing with abandon as only kids do. A popular song set an upbeat tone for the fun (and I have to embarrassingly admit it took me a few minutes to name that tune. That never happened before I was a parent!). The message was dead-on and relevant, be self-confident and don’t let the misguided negativity of others stop you from being yourself. Not a single parent in the room didn’t feel at least a little tug of the heart at the images.
The thought of our kids happy and well-adjusted makes even the gruffest parent smile. We all share that soft spot. We strive to teach them how to be happy and well-adjusted, which makes it even more ironic that my little guy has taught me as many lessons since his arrival as I’ve taught him. A child’s ability to see things in the most basic, and most literal terms, is one of the things that makes them so special.
While dealing with some paperwork online recently, I made the offhand comment that I didn’t understand why the government insisted on having us fill out so many forms that nobody reads. I should have known that one would be stored in the memory banks. A week later, Liam prompts me with, “Daddy, would you rather fill out government forms that no one reads or help me build Lego now.” If there’s a parent out there who knows how to sidestep that trap, you’re a better man than I. In case you’re wondering, my new Lego airplane is a mix of red, green and blue.
Kids excel at living in the moment, or maybe it’s better said that they live the moment. Sometimes, that’s painful as we watch a little scrape on the knee turn into a catastrophe equal to a four-alarm blaze. But other times it’s a great lesson in stopping, watching and enjoying. There was a day, a long time ago, when we were also awestruck by a rainbow, or couldn’t stop giggling while jumping in a puddle. Okay, I might have been involved in a giggling over a puddle incident at 3 a.m. once, but that’s a different story.
So I’m still rather unsure how in a blink of an eye I went from being the cocky 20-year-old intent on owning the world to being the wide-eyed parent of a wide-eyed 5-year-old, but this is the path that life takes us on. And oh, what a journey it has been. No training required.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: There are few corporations I have as much respect for as Starbucks. The respect has zero to do with the product, which certainly isn’t saving the world, but has everything to do with the praise they deserve for innovating programs such as college courses for staff. The Race Together campaign launched recently obviously did not go exactly as hoped, and probably did suffer from being positioned a little awkwardly. That said, I still give them high praise for having the guts to try and start the dialogue. How much better the end result could have been had critics focused on the many corporations doing jack squat to improve their communities, instead of the one attempting to be on the forefront…