As a parent, I often think "How am I going to do that?" And then looking back, I realize the answer is, "You just do it." The "how" is as important as the "when", as is the "why".
Hello again! It’s been almost 9 months since I posted my last blog, and as promised, I’ll only write when I have something to say! 🙂 Needless to say, the past nine months have been “different”. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world that can say that this pandemic hasn’t changed their lives in someway. Some for the good, and some for the bad. But we’ve certainly spent more time with our kids! And that means more PARENTING.
Tonight as I was tucking Kailyn into bed, I noticed that her eyes were red. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and asked her what was wrong. She immediately sat up and I could tell she wanted to talk. I may not know a lot about a lot. But I know when my preteen daughter WANTS to speak to me, I should take advantage of the opportunity.
Tonight’s topic of conversation was about a newscast she saw on CNN. She heard about Asian-Americans being targeted for violent attacks and she said that she was worried. I told her sometimes the news exaggerates things. I thought this might make her feel better and then she told me that she wasn’t worried about herself because she’s only half Asian. She was worried about me. As much as that made me smile (that she was worried about me), I knew I had to address it.
It didn’t take long to make her feel better about that topic, until she wanted to talk about the next topic. She wanted to talk about friendship, how to be a good friend, and how some of her friends that weren’t being good to her. I could write for days about friendship. I personally, have experienced some exceptional friends in my life . . . and also some not so stellar. But that’s not what I wanted to write about tonight. This is about a parenting opportunity.
2 Years Old
I took joint custody of Kailyn when she was a little over two years old. I believe she was two years and three months old to be exact. Looking back, it’s hard to believe she was so young. Looking back, I wonder to myself;
“How could I have taken care of a 2 year old?”
“What did I know?”
“Am I equipped to parent a 2 year old by myself?”
She wasn’t potty trained and still needed all the things a 2 year old needed; including a mother and father. When you’re a single parent you have to fill both roles. Clearly you’re not gonna be good at both, but you have to at least give it a try.
In all honesty, there’s no filling her mom’s shoes. She’s been a great mom to Kailyn and I could never take her place, nor should I try. I suppose that’s my first point.
“Even though you have to be both mom and dad in a single parent situation, you don’t have to be both mom and dad”.
That’s a confusing statement isn’t it? I went through a lot of therapy after I got divorced and had a lot of guilt coming from a divorced family myself. I never wanted that for my daughter and wanted to make sure she had better than I had. How could I have possibly put her in the same position that I grew up in?
Mr. Mom & Mrs. Dad
After talking to my therapist, I told her my biggest guilt was not being able to fill the void of her mom. Her mom and I have such different styles of parenting and of life. She is a “get down on the floor and play games with Kailyn” type of mom. I’m a “create experiences and memories” type of dad.
I talked at great length about the guilt of not being able to do her hair, or play Barbie dolls with her, or do the other things moms do. I asked my therapist if there was a way I could learn to do those things so I could fill the void left by my divorce. She told me something I’ll never forget.
“You don’t have to be both parents. You just have to be you, and that’s enough.”
It was that point I realized that I just needed to be a good dad. And that I needed to let my ex-wife be a good mom. It was like a weight was lifted off my chest, and I could just focus on being a good father.
This doesn’t seem like some revolutionary idea, but I promise you that keeping this in focus changed the way I parent, and ultimately has enriched my relationship with Kailyn.
One of the things I’m most proud of about my relationship with my daughter, is that she can tell me anything. The other day my mom was over and Kailyn told her something in confidence. My mom accidentally let it slip in front of Kailyn. My mom immediately apologized and Kailyn said, “It’s ok, I tell my dad everything.”
I know this is likely going to change as she gets older, but I like that after 10 years on this earth (almost 11), I’ve still got this going.
“For me it’s always important that she knows I’m her biggest fan and will always be her biggest confidant.”
It’s important to me that Kailyn can tell me anything. I’m planting this seed, and hope that it pays off in the future. I told her I’ll never be mad if she tells me something in confidence. That doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed. But I need her to feel like she can speak to me about anything. Maybe I’ll regret this one day. 🙂
Parenting: Terrible Twos
Everyone fears the terrible twos. You hear about it all the time from parents and on TV. For me, the twos weren’t too bad. Sure there were times when it was frustrating being a parent of a two-year-old who wasn’t quite a toddler, but wasn’t quite a three year old yet. But when you understand that it’s just their frustration and their inability to communicate, it becomes easier.
Admittedly, I had a really easy daughter. I know some of you out there reading this aren’t in the same boat. I focused all my energy and attention and communication with Kailyn. When I talked to her I didn’t talk to her like a baby. If she did something wrong or I need to talk to her about something serious, I set her up on a table or counter so that we were at eye level. I never talk to her like she was a kid or talked down to her. Always talked to her like she was my human.
I don’t think I’m some genius father, but I’ll tell you that I figured out really early on how important it was to be able to have an actual conversation with her . . . even when she was 2. Setting the foundation for our communication set me up for success later in life. That brings me to tonight, when she wanted to talk to me.
The Next Phase
This evening, after we got through the mild hysterics from her watching CNN, we started talking about life. We started talking about her friends and that she wanted to grow up fast. I told her to slow down and enjoy the moment. Life will come at you faster than you know it, and it’s important to enjoy every day.
As I kissed her one more time and left her room for the night, I realized how difficult the next few years we’re going to be. I thought raising a child was difficult. The feeding, the changing of the diapers, the constant attention, and everything else that comes with being a parent.
It hit me like a ton of bricks that my parenting had just begun. I always said to my friends jokingly that as a parent you can really mess up a kid. Downloading all your thoughts and opinions into that tiny little blank hard drive. And that’s totally true. But all the parents out there that think that being a parent is about “doing”, have a big surprise when their kids get old enough and it’s about “leading” by example.
Wake Up Call
I’ve always known I was put on this earth to be a father. Being Kailyn’s dad will be the most important thing I’ll ever do. Leaving my legacy through her when I’m gone will be the greatest thing I do.
“Just when I thought I got through the hard part, I realized that my work has just begun.”
After I left her bedroom, I realized that all of the hard work, sweat and tears, and parenting, was just a foundation for teaching this amazing girl how to be a good human being. It’s not the trips, the gifts, or the objects that I give her that are going to make a difference. It’s the 15 minutes I spend in her bedroom at the end of the night talking about life that does.
Tonight I had a complete mental shift in my parenting plan and I think it’s good to stop and rethink about stuff like this from time to time. It seems like just yesterday she was two years old and couldn’t even speak in full sentences. Now she’s crying in her bedroom over world news and wanting to talk to me about life.
Pause, Even Though There Is No Pause Button
If anything has become more apparent to me than ever, is that there is no pause button. The kids are going to grow up and we are going to grow old.
“Life doesn’t stop to let us figure out what the next step is going to be. We’ve got to figure it out on the fly.”
Sometimes that means calling an audible, and sometimes that means just slowing down. Just like I told her, that she needs to slow down and appreciate life, I need to do the same. I feel like every time I teach her something, I learn something myself. It’s all about Perspective.
Parenting: What Next?
I’ve been a dad for almost 11 years now, and I’m still figuring it out as I go. For me I think it’s important that I realize that I’m still figuring it out. It’s definitely OK to make mistakes as long as you don’t make the same mistakes twice. I only have seven or eight more years before she leave onto her next adventure, and I want to make sure those years count.
“As hard as it may be, my job isn’t to tell her what to do. It’s to teach her how to make the right decisions on her own.”
I know she won’t always make the right decisions. I know this because I had a great mother who gave me a great foundation and I still messed up a lot growing up. But I also know that by giving her the right foundation, my daughter’s got the best chance of becoming a good human being.
The Next Chapter
I will leave you with this thought. The thing I look forward to most in life and seeing what my daughter will become. None of us know the future, nor can we control it. All we can do is try to raise the best human beings we can. Ones who show empathy and compassion, can think on their own, and who make the best decisions possible.
I think that’s all we can ask of ourselves or our kids.
Thanks for reading as always, and I hope it’s sooner than 9 months till I write to you all again.
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