Jack and I are seldom idle. I like it this way. It’s not even so much that he’s in Pre-School now 3 days a week. It’s not that the full days we do have together make me feel like I’ve got to make up for the lost time. I don’t really believe there is “lost time” anyway. Even still, when it was just me and Jack everyday, there was very little that amounted to just sitting around. Movie days, in my opinion, exist for the rare instances when we simply cannot due to circumstance, but they should never become the norm. Now, I’ll admit that I’m rather young in the parenting game. My resistance to plopping Jack in front of the TV or putting a phone in his hand springs from multiple sources. Perhaps some lingering insecurity for how I spend the first year of his life is at play, yes. Mostly though, I simply believe that there is typically a better way. Ah, that sounds judgmental, doesn’t it? I say better only because I’ve seen the reaction that Jack has to video games and television. Engrossing on one hand and numbing on the other. I do not believe that all kids share a universal reaction to screens. Now, I’m not a doctor and I haven’t done the research. I only have my experience. I have seen that my son would gladly let ice cream melt, if it means there is an iPhone present. I have seen the difference in tantrum between leaving the zoo for misbehaving versus the complete meltdown that might come when it’s time to take away the phone. So, in a world in which he will eventually make his own willful decision, what is my role?
I am here to provide options. I’m here to show him the things he wouldn’t be able to see by sitting at home. I’m here to take him to the museum, show him the ocean, walk through nature. I’m here not so much to teach him, but to help him learn on his own.
I don’t know how much of Jack’s absolute love for solving puzzles, reading books and overall learning is tied to his genetics. I do know that not a day has gone by that he has not read read to, sung to or read or sung on his own. It seems like we are given this brilliant potpourri of ancestral talents and shared experience, but that we eventually just choose and hopefully choose well. My father has a mechanical mind that I used to marvel at. I took apart remote control cars trying to emulate that innate knowledge. People he used to work with would tell us that you could ask him once to do something and he’d just go “No problem.” My mother taught me how to sculpt, encouraged me to draw and always told me to “keep writing”. My father showed me what could be done. My mother nurtured the things I could do. In that balance, I ended up finding my path and was able to learn on my own what I could and could not do. I just want the same for Jack. I want to give him every option he’s got, so that when he is old enough to make that willful decision perhaps he’ll find the balance that I do now. That he’ll continue to pick up a book as much as he does a video game controller. That he will paint rather than watch a movie. That he will stare at a tree for a while and question his own place in the whole thing. Maybe he’ll even ask the universe a question or two. Once you realize that you get to do that, it’s hard to find anything else as satisfying.
This is, naturally, just my opinion. I also realize that I’m rather young in the whole parenting game. What I think now may evolve into something quite different given another kid, a few more years and another 20 pounds. There was a time when I was desperately foaming the corner of every table we had. That seems quite silly in hindsight. I don’t begrudge those who raise their children differently than I do. I have no insight into anything other than what seems to work for me and mine and I can’t even get through a week without screwing that up in some way. Life is a jumble of loud noises, beautiful colors and people’s faces sometimes. It’s hard enough to filter out what flat out doesn’t work before getting to lofty concepts like what is truly right or what is wrong. Who’s got time for that divine a notion? I’m not about giving advice here. I’m just sort of talking about what I do. Why? I suppose for myself mostly, but I truthfully do hope that it helps for others to know a few simple truths about being a parent. It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing, but it’s a lot of fun when you feel like you do.
What I have been blessed with is time. It is certainly finite, but it seems far less so than it used to. I have been blessed with a change in perspective that makes my life seem endless. A series of “get to do” rather than “have to do” moments, that all culminate in this wonderful privilege to be among the smiles and shining eyes of the people I love. I am grateful that I am strong enough today to get my upper respiratory infected ass up out of bed. That I get to strap my son into the car. That he will hold my hand as we walk through the parking lot of his school because my hand makes him feel safe. I can look his teacher in the eye as I drop him off.
Then I have the honor of getting back in the car, driving home, kicking off my shoes, taking off my pants and going back to bed for another 45 minutes. What?! It’s not all THE BRADY BUNCH all of the time over here!