My kids love me like crazy sauce. Good right? Well yes and no. Of course I’m grateful that my kids have no issue expressing that they love me. The fact that my 13 year old wants to hold my hand when we are in public is proof enough for me that there is a God. They are all very dear, loving and expressive kids. However its a little like dating Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction. I can only imagine being down to one parent must make a kid feel like they need to keep the remaining parent in a mason jar that is sewn into their skin, but some days I can barely breathe. To me, I’m here basically every hour of every day. When I’m not actively engaged with my kids I’m washing their clothes, buying them food, or just engaged with the exhausting process of worrying about them. Which leads me to this point. I’m a terrible parent when I make decisions based on my guilt. I spend a lot of my parenting time wishing I could say yes to candy for dinner enough times that it would make up for losing their father.
“Mom, can we have kit kats tonight for dinner? PLEASE!”
” well, OK.”
“Yah! And mom, I’ll always be perfectly adjusted now and feel like I’m ok that Dad died”.
Yeah. Probably would never work.
So instead I spend a lot of my parenting time feeling like I’ve disappointed my kids. And yes that’s basically my job as a parent to teach my kids to manage disappointment. I should be getting an A plus in that department. Aside from the tremendous disappointment of having to essentially grow up fatherless, I occasionally go out without them. Once a week I go to improv rehearsal which they’ve grown to accept as part of the bargain with me. However sometimes ill have the audacity to just go out, with grown ups.
I think this guilt is part of being a contemporary parent. In the time of co-sleeping and wearing our kids around until their 10th birthday has made us forget we have needs too.
When I was 8 years old I got myself ready for school in the morning and walked to school because my folks taught in another town. And you know what? I love my parents. They trusted me, I’m very independent. I don’t know if they even considered feeling guilty. And I hope they didn’t, but I know I never sad sacked around because I had to make my own oatmeal and lock the door behind me. Of course my parents weren’t out living it up, they were making a living. But I’m sure they went out sometimes and I don’t recall ever feeling the need to lodge a complaint because they were. I don’t remember standing with my arms crossed looking at my mom and dad and saying ” seriously, I NEVER see you and now you’re going to see Kramer vs Kramer without me”. That’s what jealous girlfriends do. Beside having a sitter meant TV dinner and I loved that tiny cherry pie.
So yes, in the midst of justifying why I’m going out, I catch myself. This is not the relationship I should have with my kids. I shouldn’t worry that I’m going find our cat Mahola in a pot of boiling water because I went to see Daniel Tosh last night. That’s ridiculous. And I understand that they feel like they’ve been bucked off a giant horse and they are scared to get off the ground, dust themselves off and take the risk of riding again. This is our life. If my parents could have made my oatmeal for me, they would have. But that wasn’t our life. Mom , Dad, I’m OK. If you ever felt guilty for the choices you had to make. Stop. Look how I turned out. Good, right? I love the person you raised me to be.
In the long term, somewhere out there in the future, I know they’ll get it. And when I come home late at night and they come with bleary eyes down the stairs, lean over, smell me and say ” you smell like birthday cake.” Sigh and slowly walk away pouting, Ill know I don’t need to explain myself.