We are not terrible parents after all
What were we thinking?
Just three days ago, my wife and I were on a vacation, of sorts.
We didn’t visit any exotic locations. We didn’t eat any unusual foods. We didn’t even stay out into the wee hours.
In fact, we still went to work every day and slept in our own bed every night. We didn’t leave town, but boy did it feel so good.
Did I mention that we were without our 4-year old son for six beautiful, peaceful, stress-free days?
Well, it wasn’t exactly stress free. We still had to deal with daily job pressures and other regular hassles.
But neither of us awoke in the middle of the night to the call of a child from the next room or impaled on the feet of our son in our own bed.
We didn’t have to maneuver through a minefield of small toys at night nor share the shower with a fleet of plastic boats, a flock of penguins and other assorted toys.
We didn’t have to continually watch his every move, anticipating what game — mental or physical — he might play next.
And we didn’t feel guilty — not one bit.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade fatherhood for anything. It is an amazing ride, but it hasn’t always been smooth, and it has had its share of twists and turns.
This is his first long trip away from home without his parents.
I know I should have felt a little tinge of worry and a tiny bit of loneliness, but I also knew that my son was having the time of his life with my parents and his cousins at the beach.
Thanks to technology, we did see and talk with our son every day on a screen. My parents fed us a daily dose of pictures.
Still, it was good to have some down time.
A few months ago a friend sent me a copy of an article written by Steve Weinds, a father and a pastor who was near the end of his parenting rope. He had three sons under the age of five and was tired of other parents telling him that “he should enjoy every moment.”
“Feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift,” he writes. “It feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now the list is way too long.”
When I read these words I found myself nodding in agreement.
He goes on to counsel other parents that the current “sky-scraper standards” set by our information-saturated culture have set the bar way too high.
“You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do.
You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise,” he writes.
Those are just a few of the reasons he tells parents why they should stop comparing themselves with insufferable parenting bloggers and gurus on TV.
“You’re not a terrible parent,” he writes. “You are a parent with limits.”
But Weinds’ last bit of advice is the one that may be the most comforting.
“Breathe in. Breathe out. You’re not alone,” Weinds writes.
I’ll remember that now that our vacation is over. Like all holidays, it’s good to be back home.
Ben Hillyer is design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.