Tim Hawkins titled one of his comedy tours “I’m No Rock Star”. It was a reference to the misconception some people had about his “lavish” lifestyle of touring the country and performing for packed auditoriums. Behind the scenes, Mr. Hawkins still carried his own bags, changed his kids’ diapers, and went through life as any average American would.
This phrase could probably be the theme of my life. Not only due to the decided mundaneness of most middle-aged parental and career related activities, but also because outward appearances might indicate a certain degree of success. Let me assure you, regardless of the topic, I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me very much. Throughout life I think we tend to come to terms with our own mediocrity in various subjects, such as sports, jobs and hobbies. But something that does depress me a bit is when I realize how ordinary I am in parts of life where I actually place a lot of effort, like relationships.
Try as I might, as a parent and husband, I am no rock star. I continue to question the way I approach these responsibilities. Kick the kids off the TV, or let them carry on as long as they’re not fighting over the remote? Ride them about homework, or let them fail and hope that they’ll learn? Give the older ones more freedom and risk the “it’s not fair” whine, or just limit everybody equally? Continue medication or try to wean them off, risking emotional swings and loss of focus? Tough love or understanding support? Let them make their own decisions or impose parental law? Some of these decisions have to be made daily, even hourly, and few of them have any obvious right or wrong answer. Regardless, they must be delivered decisively and without contradicting the other parent. Many will incite a negative response from the kids, whether that be whining, an all-out fit or even a philosophical debate, and so must also be decisively defended and reinforced.
This isn’t a one-off example. This pattern repeats every day for upwards of twenty or more years.
Every. Single. Day.
You’d think that with this much practice, my family relationship abilities would have reached not only rock star, but astronaut status! But after nearly fourteen years of practice, I seem stuck at the fatherhood equivalent of Wal Mart greeter: “Welcome to dinner! Anybody want a sticker?” Despite my best efforts, hardly a day goes by when one of the kids doesn’t get outside the walls of our house without some essential element or another, like breakfast or their history homework. Every single evening we get to look forward to somebody blowing up or melting down when a test score or unfinished chore is discussed. Meanwhile, Sara is asking me what kind of fun day trip we can plan for the upcoming long weekend. In the back of my mind I can hear my oldest objecting to any family activity that will interfere with plans he’s tentatively made to be with his friends. I have no idea. I’m no rock star.
I could probably write a whole post about the new “keeping up with the Joneses” facilitated by the continual stream of social media feeds containing photos and updates reflecting perfect children with perfect smiles daydreaming about their perfect families. I’m probably even guilty of promoting this perception with my own feeds. To be sure, we show our best moments while sweeping the more difficult times under the rug. But that’s not reality, is it?
In reality, I am inept. I could care less about work promotions or community recognition. But when the one thing that I really care about and exert effort to perfect continues to flounder, it makes me wonder what my purpose even is. Am I failing my family? Seems like a question for a rock star.