The Many Mistakes This Dad Makes

June 25, 2012 at 7:05 am 4 comments

To My Darling Daughter:

As I watch you spread Country Time lemonade powder on a slice of buttered toast, I wonder if maybe I have made some mistakes during my short parenting career. The answer is: of course I have. Before I get too puffed up about my successes, I think it is important that I remember where I need to improve. I know you can’t read yet so you won’t see this list for a while. Most of it involves you. Your little brother is too young and happy at this point to cause anyone much grief. Just remember I love you dearly and I am trying my best. Please don’t get mad at me.

The List

#1 – I Get Mad At You
You wake up your brother by shouting “is brudder seeping?!” You fill the cats’ water dish with cereal. You pour papaya juice from one cup to another until all of it is spilled on and seeping through the coffee table. You will not go to sleep when I most need you to. Instead you roll your eyes, fidget, whine, and eventually cry when all you needed to do was Just. Go. To bed.

Some of this is stubbornness that comes with being very young and your exploration of behavior boundaries. The rest is really not your fault. You see, I would like to believe that since you have been on this planet for nearly three years you would be smart enough to know a cat will scratch you if you try to pick it up by its head. But you are still only two years old and I need to be patient.

#2 – I Am Not Patient
Before marriage and kids I had the freedom to do a lot of things and a whole lot of time to do them. Now that I have a family my time and options are very limited. So, when I want something done I want it done now because there is little time for dealing with variations in schedule. I do not enjoy waiting by the door while you assemble a team of stuffed animals to accompany you in the stroller. A good solution for this problem is for me to keep my life simple; don’t try to do too much.

#3 – I Try To Do Too Much
Your and your brother’s lives are simple and enviable: sleep, boobs, cereal, play dates, popsicles, Mulan, Shrek, swings, stuffed animals, naps, hugs, kisses, ice cream and Hello Kitty pajamas. You sleep when you are ready (and not a minute earlier, see #1). You wake up when you are done sleeping. This is never when I am done sleeping (again, see #1).

I go to bed after midnight, wake up between 4AM and 7AM depending on the day, go to work, and then spend the rest of it with you kids. Often that involves keeping you from burying your brother under a pile of stuffed animals, or putting the cat in the refrigerator. You are not quite at the age where you can entertain yourself in a non-destructive way. Little Brother simply wants to be held all the time so whatever I do during the time I’m with you I likely have to do it while holding a baby. My options for getting personal projects done are limited because child care and mitre saws don’t mix.

Yet, I still commit myself to a myriad of projects that I can never complete in a reasonable amount of time. That frustrates me to no end because if there is anything I hate it is seeing those incomplete projects around my house. They are daily reminders of how I am failing.

On top of that I make it worse by mistakenly assuming that if I could just keep you occupied I could get things done and feel better. But I never feel better and all I do is lose out on spending time with you while you are still at this wonderfully terrible age.

With so many projects, work responsibilities, social engagements, and family functions requiring my attention it is difficult for me to focus on you when you need it most. I’m working on my priorities but don’t expect too much yet.

#4 – I Expect Too Much From You
You are an incredibly smart little girl and your language skills are advanced enough that you are frequently perceived to be older than you really are. Too often I forget that you are not even three years old. I can’t expect your crazy little brain to understand what I mean when I express my frustration at the mess you made on the rug I just vacuumed. Your world is only as big as you can reach and you have no comprehension of work and bills and health problems and home repair. You just want to go outside and swing.

The result of expecting too much from you is I get mad, and the cycle begins again.

Inspiration and a Promise

The other day I read an article from one of my favorite websites called zenhabits. It is titled The Tiny Guide to Being a Great Dad. As with most articles on that site it says a lot in simple way. After reading that article and thinking about the current state of my life I decided I need to make a change. I need to simplify my life so I have more opportunities to be present with you and have less on my mind. My brain is too crowded with urgent but ultimately unimportant crap.

I promise to begin that process today, starting with item #3 on the list. Let’s revisit this in a couple of months and see where we are. By then the raspberries will have turned and we can spend our time picking them before the berries and these days are lost forever.

Entry filed under: Being Dad. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. wwfd301  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:52 am

    We are all guilty of the items on your list…and then some! Kudos for putting it all into perspective! It goes by so fast! A month ago, I was bitching about all I had to do to plan my daughter’s graduation party. Then it hit me like a brick. After the grad party, I will have (possibly) only 3 major parties left in my daughter’s life to plan. Graduation from college, bridal party, and baby shower. It makes me feel so shitty for complaining during all those birthday parties. I wish I tried harder to relax and just take it all in. Enjoy your baby girl!!!

  • 2. Brewsurfer  |  June 26, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Great post. It mirrors my experience with my daughter and her younger brother almost identically. I am not idle. I want to get stuff done. Now that I have kids I am more motivated and more efficient out of necessity, but I need to stop buying time with the TV. I need to spend more time playing with my children and if my To Do list truly is important, then I should take an hour away from sleep to get it done. Love the blog. Keep it coming.

    • 3. Hop Dad  |  June 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

      I suffer from the delusion that if I just had a little more time I could get everything done. Then I would be free to spend unlimited time with my wife and kids and not be shackled by worries about what is still undone.

      That point in time where everything is complete is simply a myth. Something new will always get added to the pile. So now it’s really all about learning to be content. I have lost the ability to be content by striving to do too much with too little time and my health and relationships are suffering for it.

      This is the quote I try to keep in mind when it all seems out of control:

      “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

      Thank you for reading and for the support!

  • 4. 18 Minutes of Quiet Joy « Hop Dad  |  September 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    […] couple of months ago I wrote about the many mistakes I make when raising my kids. That hour-plus of time with my son was my attempt at making good on a promise. […]


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