My latest paying gig comes with some choice benefits, the best being I get to work remotely four days out of every five. Once a week, I pop in to the office to touch base, sit in on meetings, and sip some damn fine cardamom-flavored coffee.
The rest of the time, I’m allowed free reign. Being able to work from home has enabled me to help my wife with the daily dropping off and picking up at school of our four kids, ages 8 through 3.
While I’m happy to be more available to lend a hand around the homestead, raising young children is trench warfare. Calling it a full-time job is like describing World War II as a series of border skirmishes. And the logistical maneuvering required to make our household hum makes the Normandy invasion look like a walk in the park. Yet whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or just plain bored with fatherhood, I hit the pause button, and then rewind to see how I could change my children’s future.
The movie I play back reinvigorates me: Our children are happy, well-adjusted, boisterous, clever, engaging little people. While I can’t take credit for all or even most of that, my wife and I have made Herculean efforts to allow our babies to see people with their own eyes, feel the world with their own fingers, do as guided by their curiosity, and develop into the strong-minded, independent children they are today.
Our life’s movie could easily have gone off in a very different direction. We know people — lovely, caring parents — who are raising their kids as best they know how. But there’s only so much these parents can do to guide and protect their children. You see, when a child is diagnosed with a developmental disorder or physiological issue of some kind, all the love and trying in the world won’t completely “fix” it. This is a parent’s greatest challenge: raising a child to be a confident, self-sufficient adult under the most trying of circumstances.
My wife and I are thus doubly blessed. First, our fearsome foursome has thus far displayed no health-related, emotional or psychological issues that could hinder their development. Second, we’re aware of how lucky we are. Good health, mental, physical, emotional and otherwise should never be taken for granted.
However, there are danger signs ahead in my children’s future. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I’m still hot tempered, quick to judge, and reckless in my actions. Yet when I see one of my daughters displaying these same tendencies, I can’t help but smile. For even though I may never get a full grip on my demons, I now have an opportunity to make sure that those demons will die with me. You can rewrite the scenes from your life in which you would have liked to have acted differently, then gently copy and paste that wisdom into your kid’s life story.
If you’re lucky, they’ll even be willing to sit with you and tweak the parts of their own screenplay that really need some rewriting. Just a few minor modifications early on could well turn out to be the difference between children growing into adults who live bold lives lived on their own terms, and gray lives marred by overwhelming anxiety, chronic confusion, and even unhappiness.
This piece was originally published on City Dads Group on February 19, 2020.