I believe that being a parent is the hardest job I ever had—or ever will. Before I was married, I used to think, “How hard could raising three or four sweet little angels dressed in pink be? Now, 20 years, 50 pounds and a dozen or so gray hairs later, I realize that not only is marriage hard work, but that kids make the Job even harder. Kids tax your patience, test your limits and generally mess up your house and your car.
Now that I’m 40, I think a lot about my parents, and the massive potential I have to absolutely screw up the lives of my kids. Here’s how: they do something ’Ive told them a million times not to do, I yell at them. They grow up and have shattered self-esteem, drop out of school, can’t land a decent job, can’t pay their bills, have to live in their cars and die penniless.
Last year, my wife and I decided to tell my daughter that she didn’t get the iPod Nano we had bought her for Christmas because she put the shuffle she already had through the wash accidentally. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to tell her, and the look on her face was soul-crushing to me. Just another day on the Job.
But more than the daunting task of raising kind, well-mannered, responsible kids, is the ever-present fear that my wife and I could be making little mental cases out of them. Will they be able to cope in a healthy, stable way with life’s little adversities? When they see their parents getting frustrated by life, how on earth will they grow up to become the easygoing, carefree, well-adjusted adults my wife and I are not?
Aside from how they act, there’s their basic safety. The fear that your kids will be kidnapped, killed or seriously injured in a freak couch-jumping or Pop Tart-toasting accident is always present. Plus there’s all the whining, the crying, the nights of lost sleep, the hurt feelings and pouting that you have to endure. And the stuff the kids do is awful, too.
In the end, I believe that my wife and I are good, loving parents who do right by our kids the majority of the time. We buy them rolly backpacks and iPods, feed them Happy Meals, take them to Disney, videotape their school plays, spend time watching Spongebob Squarepants together. We even try to have dinner at the table as a family every night. Mostly things that our society tells us make us “good” parents. But it’s hard to fight the nagging feeling that I’m just botching the entire thing.
I guess I have to believe that although this is the toughest job I’ll ever have, and one that will never get to quit or retire from, I’m going to just do the best I can to fight my insecurities and keep on loving my kids. And start saving now for their therapy bills.
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