Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Judging Our Parental Performance

It's been an awfully long time since I last posted here at The Wide World of Jake.  So often, when I'm writing for the "new" blog, Dapper and Dreamy, I come up with ideas that my wife suggests are better suited to this forum.  In other words, they aren't dapper or dreamy at all.

If you're a dad and are reading this, you might be familiar with the emotions that I am about to articulate.  If you are not a father, it might be interesting for you to know that such things occur to us.

I am never entirely certain whether I am a really good dad, or not.  If such an accolade were awarded based on desire and attempt, I'm sure I'd be in the top.  But, if it's results-based, I won't know for many years.  As it stands now, I generally see more of my mistakes that victories, and hope that my offspring don't suffer too much for them.

One thing must be acknowledged, though.  Sometimes it seems that the world is against the male parent.  Mothers, quite rightly, get first prize for devotion, sacrifice and love and dads?  Well, dad's get Father's Day.  In my life at least, the most trying days are generally those that are set aside just for me.  My birthday?  Ugh.  Father's Day?  Double ugh.  Not only am I legally required to be delightful and happy, but my poor children are forced to be unnaturally solicitous and giving.  Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable.

Here's another example of how the world is out to deprive fathers of confidence in their abilities...  The Cat's In the Cradle.  How can a mere song have such a negative impact?  Have you ever listened to this song?  It's guaranteed to make Fred MacMurray feel that he's deprived all three of those sons of the love and attention that they've needed and, now in the twilight of his life, he'll be lucky to get five minutes on the phone with one of those kids. This assuredly heartfelt song even makes me feel that I've neglected my children, despite the fact that I work from home, allow frequent interuptions to answer questions about math problems that I didn't understand twenty years ago, and still don't, and rarely leave the house without at least one, and usually at least five, of these small people in tow.  (Now that, my fair readers, is a run-on sentence!)

Thankfully, there are saving, golden moments when it all comes back into perspective and I can see that, maybe, I'm not doing so badly after all.  Sometimes, it's a kind word or a hug from one of my children.  Or, perhaps, it's a compliment from a stranger as we quietly leave a restaurant after a (thankfully) uneventful meal.  Today, it took a slightly different form...  Rather than praise or affection, it was through the words of another parent, overhead talking to her child as they perused the games selection at our local Target...  "Well, why don't you get that one.  Even a dumbass could win at that game!"  I shouldn't have been shocked to hear these words, they weren't delivered with any particular cruelty, in fact, they were said almost affectionately, with even a little pride.  Judging only by the looks of this particular parent, I suspect she's had a lot of opportunity to test out her theory.

So, in the final analysis, I've decided not to judge my parental performance on only what I do say, but also on the many, many things that I wouldn't even think to say!