I would love to preface this whole thing by saying that 90 % of the time I think that I’m a pretty good father. I would LOVE to do that, but it simply isn’t true. If I’m being honest the actual moments when I am able to truly go “You’re a pretty good dad” are a much smaller number than that. For the most part I think that I’m an okay dad. What I am is pretty certain that I’m doing the best I can. When I’m not on my game, I let myself fall victim to all the insecurities that I can be teaming with if left unchecked. They are, at times, vast and can spill into my behavior. The most glaring example of this behavior is a level of inconsistency in my parenting. Inconsistency in parenting is an inevitable pitfall, for me anyway, and something that I try to stear clear of. I remember when I was a kid not knowing when the rules were going to change. I projected that paranoia onto some of the people closest to me for a while. It’s a river of self-doubt that I don’t want my children to feel they have to wade in to maintain the status quo.
One of the forms that this inconsistency takes is that my barometer of acceptable behavior with Jack can change depending on who is watching. More accurately, who I percieve is watching. No one is watching. Well, maybe some one is, but who cares? Well, I do sometimes. I don’t do this often, but I don’t like that I do this at all. I don’t like that I might (sometimes) tell Jack that he cannot go onto the sidewalk with his scooter if another parent is uncomfortable with their child following along. I don’t like that I tell him to eat all his food beyond what I usually would simply because some one is present that might consider it wasteful. I don’t like that at times I make him share toys he is playing with to placate another child. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better.
In all of this though, I have my own boundaries of setting boundaries. I will not accommodate the laziness of another parent if Jack is playing with their child. I don’t tell my son to “stay where I can see you” or “stay close to the playground”. It’s his job to explore. It’s my job to make sure his exploration does’t get him in too much danger. It’s not my job to sit on a bench or to be on my phone.
Oh, and there it is. Judgement. The other, more poisonous, form this insecurity can take. I am, through some level of mental gymnastics, able to judge a parent for behaving a way that I had been behaving minutes earlier. It’s quite a feat of willful amesia, one that I am sure could be redirected to astonish masses if I ever wanted to take this show on the road. I can see the posters now. “Come one, come all! See George as he admonishes his son for pushing another child and then casually sneers at a parent who does the same five minutes later. Come see George forget how he professes that one cannot truly control their children, only to think “What a terrible mother!” as he sees another parent unable to control their child!” Well, I can dream. Can’t I?
So, yeah, I get scared. I get insecure. I get a little bitchy sometimes. When I step back and look at the reality I’m living in though, something weird happens. Last night I was laying in bed with my wife. I remarked to her how much I love this right now. I said: “Our one son is sleeping in his bed. Our other son is sleeping next to our bed. I am laying in bed with you, and our family is all around us.” When I stop and take stock, I am able to completely forgive myself for being human and flawed. It’s in those moments where I know that I’m a hell of a dad. Now, those moments are few and the chaos of now is ever-present, but the knowledge to my innermost self is ever-lasting. My hope is that I can get my own behavior as a parent to be as consistent as that knowledge that I am a good one.
Only time will tell.