This blog has taken a serious turn. As I look back on the last several years of posts, it seems that my original concept of “whimsy through stream of consciousness” has been thoroughly dispatched in favor of cultural concerns, nostalgic ramblings, and personal frustrations. It’s not what I envisioned, and rest assured that my life is definitely not as serious as this snapshot might make it seem! It’s just that the everyday mundane hardly seems worth capturing, while the expression of life’s complexities through text can be highly therapeutic. If anything, the amount of time between posts should be translated as “non-rant worthy happy times” which far outweigh the negativity present in the posts themselves.
Parenting. You’re doing it wrong. We’re all thinking it about ourselves. As the cliché goes, “there is no instruction manual” and even if there were it would hardly apply in each and every case. I had a bad moment last night, and I’m still thinking about it. This has been one of those weeks. We had something scheduled every night, be it a sporting event or other gathering, which is stressful for a pair of introverts (insert joke about how two introverts ever got together in the first place). Granted, though our four Wednesday night activities (adventure Bible club for the two youngest, youth group for AJ, Bible study for me and high school class registration for Sara and Connor) were all cancelled due to the storm, we ended up clearing off the snow all evening, anyway, and before we knew it bedtime was upon us. So even our “night off” was filled with duties and chores! Sara has been taking EMT training, which consumes a few of her evenings a week. In fact, I’ve needed a haircut for about two weeks but have failed to witness the alignment of twenty minutes of free time and “haircut joint” hours of operation. Anyway, you get the point, we’re busy and it’s stressful.
I remember when the only question our kids would ask us was “why?”. It was “why?” to everything. My kids questions have evolved considerably since those days, but they still ask them ALL THE TIME.
“Can I go to this birthday party on Saturday?”
“Can you unlock the computer?”
“Can you buy me some music on iTunes, and I’ll pay you back?”
“Can you sign this homework/report card/permission slip?”
“Will you sponsor me on this fundraiser?”
“Can I watch Netflix?”
“Can I go to (friends) house?”
“Have you seen my other shoe?”
“Can we play video games?”
At times it seems that I can’t even sit on the couch for five minutes after work without one or more of them wandering up to me and asking for something. I know, I shouldn’t be complaining. After all, one day they won’t need me for anything. Still, in the moment it can wear you down.
It was after a week of constant activity and barrage of questions that I was caught in a bad moment last night. Sara was at class, so I had shuttled all four kids to Delavan to watch my daughter’s volleyball game. We probably weren’t 2-3 minutes into warmups when AJ started asking me to pay him for some chores he had completed earlier. I owed him $5. I looked in my wallet and told him that I only had four dollars, and a twenty (I had just paid for us all to get into the game). He asked me if I would give him the four dollars and owe him one. I, while trying to watch how the girls were warming up, asked why he needed the money at this very moment. His only reply was “I don’t like feeling broke”, which seemed pretty flimsy to me, so I kind of ignored it.
A minute or so passed, and he asked me again if I would pay him. Now, normally, I probably would have said yes at this point, but a few things were bothering me. One, we’d just concluded this same conversation and the fact that I hadn’t paid him seemed like answer enough to me. Two, I didn’t see much of a difference between owing him $5 and owing him $1. Three, my kids have made a habit lately of spending their meager earnings (and I do mean meager, we don’t/can’t just throw huge lumps of cash at our kids, even for doing chores) on concession-stand sugar. At the last basketball game we’d attended, we learned (after the fact) that our youngest had spent $9 on candy, chips and drinks. NINE DOLLARS, or nearly half of all of his money in this world. So, needless to say I was a bit suspicious of the timing of this request. I sat quietly watching warmups.
He asked again.
I ripped the wallet out of my pocket, slapped the four dollars into his hand and said “there, now stop nagging me about it.”
Not my best moment. After all, it was money that he’d earned, and I probably should have paid him a while ago. I’d just reached a boiling point.
He looked dejected, mumbled a question about why I was mad at him and went to sit on the other side of the bleachers, away from me.
Of course, I knew immediately that I was wrong. I’d blown the opportunity to be a good example by paying my debts happily. Blown the opportunity to remind him about responsible spending. Blown the opportunity to be the biblical father – slow to anger. Worst of all, I’d dealt a blow to the relationship between myself and a son who looks up to me. I’d just plain blown it.
Parenting, man. It takes a super-human to pull it off. I have no idea how single parents do it. None at all. Ninety-nine percent of the time you manage to pull it off, but it’s that one percent that really sticks with you, and you pray to God that it doesn’t stick with your kids, too.