Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fatherhood Grades without a Curve

I'm not just celebrating Father's Day this year. Really it is Father's Week. The little Goofs go to camp for four weeks and Mama Goof goes away for a week. I can eat when & what I want. I can sit around and smoke cigars (thanks to CigarCity for sending me some, they're yummy!) and watch stand-up comedy on Netflix till my eyes bleed.

But I'm also thinking about myself as a dad. I'm pretty good - I'll give myself a B. I’m not grading on a curve here, none of this you're great just for being there.

I am there, I am involved, and I listen and try to help. At the same time, I'm not a helicopter parent. You don't get an A for indulging your kids. They need time away from me, they also need time being bored. I think I’m the right level of engaged - overall. There’s been fails when I’ve pushed too much or not enough, but overall it’s been about right. Not the Golden Mean, but I can usually steer towards the lesser evil.

Now, what am I good at?

I'm really good at talking to them. Not perfect, I'm not the always wise parents of “Father Knows Best,” although really, who is? But I try to listen and relate. Laugh with them - a lot - but also resolve things that are just a little too big for them (albeit often tiny for an adult.)

I am one of the funniest dads there is. Maybe too much - but I don’t think the little Goofs mind. They want me to write them letters at camp every day, so they can read them to their friends.

I am really good at adventures and excursions. Museums, hikes, battlefields, just generally neat stuff are my thing. I push it when we travel and I push for it at home.

But where am I weak?

Excursions I may own, but projects are not my thing. Cooking together, fixing stuff together, art projects - I don’t like any of it. Don’t do it, don’t wanna do it. My kids will never beam, “My dad taught me to…” (Deliver a punchline maybe…but nothing involving objects in physical space.)

I’m good with excursions, but not so good with extracurriculars. GoofBoy plays sports, either at school or in leagues with friends. So I don’t have to do much thinking to get him involved. GoofGirl’s interests are more varied and the after school programs don’t meet her needs. So I have to find the stuff she’s interested in and get her involved. And I don’t. She never complains, but that stinks for her. I don’t want kids running from French horn to soccer to Future Non-Profit Executives of America to whatever. But she would like to be doing something - I should make it happen. This really bugs me.

Sometimes my mood gets the worst of me. I don’t yell much, but when I do…

Also, I kind of stink with technology and directions - two things that come up all too often. And my frustration results in temper. My mood gets me other ways - if I’m not happy about something, I have trouble shaking it and I miss some good stuff (like on last Father’s Day when GoofBoy took me to an Orioles game and I wasn’t really in the mood.)

But the biggest one is work. I’m not a workaholic, although I do like my work. But I seem to have a lot of trouble getting through it (I’m not the only one - academics complaining about writing is not an uncommon trope). There are some good reasons for this (like interruptions of life) but also some lousy reasons (my own deep disorganization.) The trouble is, there is always more to do and it sits with me and keeps me out of the moment. I skip kid stuff, or don’t do kid stuff because I have to work. But I don’t - not really - I have to work because I couldn’t keep myself on track.

That’s something to work on because more than my career is at stake.