I admit, I try to put a good face on things.
My dictum is from The Life of Brian: “Always look on the bright side of life.” I mean, when your friends ask “how ya doing?” or “how’s it going?” they don’t really want an exposition on the various challenges and troubles you face as a parent, as an adult, as a worker, as part of a family that might not always sail smoothly into the proverbial sunset.
Which isn’t to say that we should consistently lie to everyone and smile cheerily when something horrible has just happened, but there’s a middle ground too, where people you barely know probably aren’t interested in your parking ticket or hangnail. Know what I mean?
And so it is with parenting. I’ll be candid: being a single Dad to three kids 16, 13, and 9 can be quite a task, and it seems like every single day at least one of them is having a hard time, to the point where I’m not sure I can remember a week where everything was smooth sailing with all three of them.
Now I’m not complaining, because I think that’s just part of the parenting journey. Like any relationship, it cannot be defined or tested by when things are going well, but rather when things are difficult, when someone’s sick, cranky or just plain rude. It’s no wonder I’m often tired at the end of a day!
I’ve written before about how when challenges arise there’s a need to differentiate between those that need to be fixed and those that you just need to survive. A sick child? You just need to survive them being up, sick, cranky, miserable. A child who does poorly in school and is testy because of it? That’s a fix-it: Let’s learn how to study together.
What’s even harder is that sometimes I am stuck watching one of my children suffer, knowing that there’s nothing I can do to fix it. As a man, it triggers my “Mars” fix it urge and is incredibly upsetting, but those really can be a “get through it” moment. Them being sick is like that: a child who is crying because their stomach hurts is a tough thing to endure.
Sometimes there are emotional hurts and those can be even more difficult to watch. There are broken hearts, there are situations that my children face that are so daunting for them that there’s really nothing I can do to help other than hold their hand and tell them I’ve got their back and I love them. And it deeply, deeply sucks, even if it is part of “their journey” and part of the “human experience”. Who wants to see their child deeply unhappy?
That’s the kind of day yesterday was. So right this moment, don’t ask how I’m doing. Ok?
And we’ll get through it together…
I never thought of the struggle that a father must have with their strong desire to “fix” things, compared to my own female desire.
Yes, parenting does suck sometimes, because it’s never-ending, and selfless. You’re doing great. 🙂
Thanks for this- I love reading your blog!
Not to mention lonely at times. My children are both toddlers and quickly becoming independent (I mean that is a good thing, right?) But, now they don’t need me as much. They are perfectly happy playing without me anymore. They rarely come to me to kiss away the boo boos. Those random hugs and unsolicited “I love you Mommy’ moments have almost vanished. I fear that this is just the start.
Kids are tough. I can imagine being a single parent is even more tough. I have a great group I am a part of full of other moms that helps me “deal” with the whole crazy kid thing. It is good to chat with others and to see that we aren’t alone, and we are there for support. I know men don’t have as much of a community around parenting, but I know there are some out there who sure could use the support. Maybe you should start a dads play group. 😉
Oh yes- the sick days are hard because it hurts to see the kids sick, but then it’s usually nothing serious and over in a few days… I can make tea, give medicine, read stories… The “fix-it” problems are more challenging and it’s not always easy to find the right way to go…. but I think hardest are really those moments when you see your kids suffer and there’s just nothing you can do about it. I can try to help with hugs and kisses, with distractions and love… but they need to go through it and find their own way to deal it…