The conference was intended to build us up and give us confidence in our child-rearing skills, and it did precisely that. However, the self-critic that I am, it also was very effective in convicting me of all the things I am failing to do as a parent. So much so that when we went to get our children after the conference, I felt an urge to pick up all three of them up and apologize.
We had dinner with some close friends of ours after the conference and they shared with us an insight that I have since grabbed hold of tightly. His words of wisdom were this, “The great thing about parenting is that we have the right to screw up our children in our own unique way.”
Truer words were never spoken and I am working hard to “uniquely” impact my kids’ lives. My guess is, this column alone will be worth several years of therapy. Some counselor some day needs to thank me for significant income into their practice.
The problem is not us. The problem is our lack of preparation. The world has clearly taken the philosophy of “experience is the best teacher” to heart on the topic of child-rearing. I mean seriously, nobody has come up with a “Child-Rearing Instruction Manual” and who calls it child “rearing” anyway? That just sounds weird.
Somebody suggested reading Dr. Spock, so I Googled him and found a character from “Star Trek” and I thought, “I’m not taking parenting advice from a childless, emotionless alien,” only to realize that isn’t who they meant. Once I found Dr. Spock, I realized his pinnacle work was published in 1946 and I thought that maybe that information was outdated. I mean, seriously, doctors were smoking in the delivery room at that time.
I remember eight years ago leaving the hospital with our first-born when the weight of that moment fell upon me, and I realized I didn’t even know how to put his car seat into our vehicle. In fairness, I think you need a Ph.D. in engineering to figure those crazy contraptions out. As we were rolling him out of the hospital, a nurse came running up and said, “Wait! You forgot your instructions!”
Relief flooded through my system as I said, “The mythical instruction manual that everyone said didn’t exist? Thank you so much!”
The nurse looked at me blankly, attempting to determine if I was serious. “No, the instructions for caring for his umbilical cord,” she clarified.
I feigned laughter, playing the comment off as a joke while the weight settled nicely back upon me.
Over the past eight years, I’ve become more comfortable with parenting, even when a conference points out all the ways I am failing as a parent. But I will just hold onto the wisdom of my friend in that we are successfully and uniquely screwing up our children in our own way.
(Editor’s Note: Matt Ryerson has a family of five: his wife, son, two daughters, Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. None of his children is currently in therapy ... of course, they haven’t yet read this column. “Father Time” appears in the Cleveland Daily Banner in alternating Wednesday editions.)