August 12, 2008

Dad Did It Better

This past weekend I went to a barbecue and hung out with a bunch of old friends. It was nice to catch up with everyone. We had a good time telling old stories for the 1,209,092 time and spent a lot of time laughing at the silly things we used to do.

For the most part we did a good job of avoiding the dreaded adult talk but in the end it came about. The conversation covered our jobs/businesses, investments, houses, insurance of all types, politics, The Olympics and a smattering of plain old sports. Not to mention the children, boy did we talk about the kids.

Midway through the afternoon one of the guys pulled me aside to ask me for some advice about his son. He is all of three and is quite the precocious child. I listened to my friend relate his concerns about whether his child was normal and how he had picked me because I have been married and a father much longer than he has.

I laughed when he said that. I am at 12.5 years of marriage and almost 8 years of playing dad. When I laughed he looked hurt and asked why I was laughing. I told him that I wasn't laughing about his child, just kind of chuckling about a conversation we once had many years ago.

You see the last time he asked me for advice it was in reference to an old girlfriend. She wasn't taking care of his "oral needs" and so he asked me for some help. One of these days I'll have to blog about that, but today isn't the day.

Anyhoo, in the midst of this discussion he asked "do you ever feel like your parents were better at this than you are?"

I smiled and said "everyday."

Intellectually I know that my parents felt a tremendous amount of stress and pressure. I have heard stories and exchanged a few tales with my father about this. But, when I think about it I remember very few moments where I knew that they were worried about "major" things.

The image I have in my head is of parents who were rocks, you couldn't shake 'em up. They handled whatever life threw at them, just chewed it up and spit it out.

It seems quite different from my own experience. It is not that I spend all day worrying about life, or concerned that I am a bad father. I don't. I do alright, but compared to my parents I think that I fall short.

Now maybe that is just the star crossed eyes of their son speaking, but it is hard not to view them as being better at the parenting thing than I am.

Apparently this is more common than I thought because my friend smiled and told me that he had the same feelings.

We spent a few more minutes talking about it all and came to an agreement that successful parenting requires acting skills. How many times do you find yourself fighting to maintain a poker face or struggling to deliver the perfect line. Except in this business there are no Oscars.

There is no adoring public, papparazzi or personal assistant to help give you an inflated view of yourself. There is just your family, which really isn't such a bad thing.

In the end you do the best you can not to screw up your kids too badly and hope that one day they'll tell a friend that "dad did it better."


therapydoc said...

Your parents deserved Oscars. It's one of the things that unites a couple. Keep it from the kids. They don't need this.

Great post, Jack.

frumhouse said...

Great post. Yes, thank goodness for the drama training back in high school! I find it's easier to suppress a laugh than suppress tears - I'm supposed to be the objective listener not the object of the issue - the problem is I feel almost one and the same as my kids. Their joy is mine and their pain is mine too.

I love your writing style, you have a great way of drawing the reader into your world.

V-Grrrl said...

I did plenty of years starring in the family drama as "Rock Solid Mom," but as my kids have gotten older (almost 13 and 11 now), I've dropped the facade and the acting. At this stage, they need to know I'm not perfect and all knowing but I'm doing the best I can. They need to know how hard their dad and I work to sustain the life we all share and not take it for granted. They need to be aware there's much that's beyond our control and we just have to deal with it and accept risk. They can count on us loving them but they can't count on life staying safe and the same and that change can be a very good thing. Big lessons. Still working on those myself.

Anonymous said...

P.S. BTW, I'm waiting on the oral story.... : )

Jack said...


My parents did a great job hiding the crap from us. I am still surprised by some of the stories I hear.

Their joy is mine and their pain is mine too.

Well said. I couldn't have done it any better.

They can count on us loving them but they can't count on life staying safe and the same and that change can be a very good thing.

So very true. If there is one thing that we can count upon it is that life will change.

P.S. BTW, I'm waiting on the oral story.... : )

One day. ;)