Of sausage and parenting

. September 5, 2012.

Parenting is an ugly business. The old saying is that those who are partial to the law and sausage should abstain from watching the creation of either one for fear of turning off their fondness for the outcome. That statement is equally applicable to raising children. Every day I make mistakes, missteps, and stupid decisions.

A simple request to pick up a toy is met with “No” and then “I don’t want to.” “I told you to” and “you will be punished if you don’t” are my responses as my daughter continues to test how the performance of the request can be prolonged. After going back and forth a few times the request ends with frustration on my part and some dramatic outburst from my daughter. “No one loves me,” is her current one. I hug her, tell her I love her, and in the best way possible tell her that is why I want her to obey. That works on a six year old about as well as it does a 16 year old.

What can make parenting difficult are the competing goals. Mine is to be the best parent I can be and to give my kids everything I didn’t have. At the same time, I want to balance that by making sure they don’t have too much. The central goal of my children’s lives is to undermine my primary goal. Not intentionally, but
simply because of their natural desire to do what they want without parental involvement.

Testing the waters

My children are only six and two but that conflict is already in place. The lines are drawn and the battles are well documented. Even though we are slogging through the trenches of daily warfare gaining very little ground, my wife and I believe we are winning the war. That is either because we believe and listen to our own propaganda or because, every once in a while, we see a breakthrough.

Once the “pick up your toy” episode concludes, my daughter generally does what she was asked to do and, after some prodding from my wife, apologizes. 
“I’m sorry daddy for not obeying,” said in her small soft voice, melts any anger
or frustration. 

I can’t imagine having these battles alone and I admire those who do without a choice.  My wife helps me learn from the mistakes and shares in the doubts of trying to do the right thing.  As I talk to her at the end of the day, trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I can avoid the same pitfall in the future, she consoles and offers advice. “Don’t beat yourself up. I understand. I lost my patience with them today, too” is a sampling of her encouraging and soothing advice regarding a difficult day of parenting. Our willingness to stand together in this battle makes the process of parenting possible. In spite of seeing it made every day, we still enjoy the sausage.