22 February 2016

Captain Dad

I was recently reminded that I haven't written about my kids much. That's a shame, because my kids are great. My girls are thoughtful, curious, intriguing, intelligent, and adorable. The last bit is important because it smooths some of the rough edges that grate against us parents. And that's the thing that's on my mind these days: parenting is hard.

I love my children but I don't really like parenting.

Having kids is great. They stretch and grow me in ways I don't like and did not expect. They bring unexpected joy into my life in unexpected ways. However, parenting kind of sucks. The business of raising a human that you may or may not have much control over is heartwrenching and difficult. It forces you to face those things that you've spent most of your conscious life managing and/or repressing. Kids push all the right (and wrong) buttons.. Many studies have shown that parenting nukes the overall level of happiness in people.

But other studies have shown that, while you're less happy, your spikes of happiness go way higher. I've found this to be true! Case-in-point: my four-year-old, who has been giving us no end of grief and just last night mixed bubble bath with baby soap (which would have been a horrible booby trap for the baby had we not caught her), is filling me up with joy at this very moment by way a bizarre song and dance she's just invented.
A friend, who's kids are now all teenagers, told me that his favorite age for children was 0-1. My first thought was, Buh?! But they can't even play games at that age! And yet I'm coming around to his point of view. With the baby, I get to enjoy her absolutely criminal level of cuteness, share in the simple joy of having an infant smile at you, delight in her delight at every little thing I do, and I don't have to discipline her! There's a similar level of joy and delight in my four-year-old, but (at least in recent weeks) I have to spend an equal, if not greater amount of time fighting her over every little thing and ultimately disciplining her for her bad choices.

At the same time kids make me grateful. They keep me in touch with those things that make life grand and might otherwise drown in the turbulent waters of life on this planet. I'm reminded of the power of play and imagination, of unbridled creativity and the joy of the moment. My kids aren't burdened by looming bills or hurried schedules or other stupid crap; they just are and they're really good at it.

So, as friend once put it, I'm not really a Captain Dad kind of guy. My lot in life is not only to be a father. I don't eat, sleep, drink, and breath parenting. I enjoy all aspects of my life, though family is the obvious priority. I want to be a great dad, but I also want to show my kids a balanced life.

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