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I Have No Idea How I'm Doing as a Dad

06/20/2011 Comments (18)

So today was Father’s Day. I took the kids to the mall and they rode the Merry-go-Round there. As we were sitting on line this three year old named Bobby in front of us was reading to his Mom. Reading!

So I realized today ON FATHER’S DAY OF ALL DAYS that I suck at parenting. If I gave my three year old a book she’d probably just hit the five year old with it.

I got me thinking. It’s a strange thing about parenting. Most of us have no idea how we’re doing. None.

Working in an office or around other people you can gauge how you’re doing from what your manager says, or raises or reviews. But in parenting you’re the manager, there are no raises and your reviews consist of “Dad, you burned the toast again” and “Thank you for taking us to the park.”

Parenting can be isolating and you’re sometimes not sure how you’re doing until you’re sitting on a Merry-go-Round line listening to Bobby sound out the word “construction.” Seriously.

This reminded me of when I was in high school I trained all summer to join the cross country team. I jogged five miles a day every day during the summer. I jogged everywhere. The week before practice started the only problem I could imagine was running while being weighed down by medals. (In my imagination I wore them during races.)

And then came the first day of practice and the team lined up on the street outside the school and the coach said “go.”

It was shortly after “go” that my visions of medals were shattered and I realized my parent’s mantle would be likely be empty unless I joined the Chess club. Everyone ran. I say “ran” to differentiate it from what I was doing which was jogging. Within five minutes the rest of the team was a colorful bouncing blip on the horizon. (And I have good eyes.) In fact after twenty minutes I fell so far behind that I got lost and the coach had to pick me up and bring me back to school in a big red van. Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing.

And I fear that it’s the same with parenting. I know my five kids. They seem happy to me, well behaved, smart, and kind. But I don’t really have anything to compare them to. I don’t hang out with other people’s children. (Let’s face it, it’d be kind of weird if I did.)

Other parents may be horrified at the job I’m doing and they’re just too nice to tell me. I hear about kids who are reading at age 3, potty trained at eleven months, playing the piano at two. Heck, I’d settle for kids that put away their toys.

In short, I might be jogging again and have no idea I’m supposed to be running. So I’m just waiting for the van to come pick me up now that I’m lost. I’ll be at the Merry-go-Round.

When the ride ended my children got off their horses and lined up at the exit and waited there while I unstrapped my three year old.

And that’s when I heard the scream. Bobby, who’d been reading, was holding on for dear life onto the horse as his mother was pulling him off. “I waaaannntt too riiiiide agaaaaaaaiiinnn!!!!!!” he screamed. The mother peeled Bobby’s hands from the horse and the boy fell to the ground and proceeded to run from his mother and after about six steps he slammed right into the gate. The mother picked the child up, hugged him and jogged toward the exit with the still screaming boy.

Now I want to make it clear that I’m not happy Bobby runs into gates. It’s just that I kind of don’t feel so bad about the job I’m doing. Bobby running around and screaming was the best Father’s Day gift he could’ve gotten me. Thanks Bobby.

So I may be jogging but I’ve got a lot of joggers around me.

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About Matthew Archbold

Matthew Archbold
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Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph's University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.