We mess up. From texting instead of talking to forgetting about soccer practice to losing our temper at the dinner table, we parents make so many mistakes.
This Dad does, anyway.
The kids like to have fruit shakes with frozen berries in the morning. Once, in a sleep-deprived trance, I put a spoon into a running blender. The meeting of steel blades and steel utensil caused a berry large mess. It also caused a bad word to form near my wrist, scamper up my arm, and fly out of my mouth.
Big mistake. I may have gotten away with it though—the three year-old was the only one within earshot, and she’s not that street smart.
Many of my other mistakes have come back to haunt me. How many times have I accused one kid or another of doing something wrong only to have the tables turned?
“You guys have to clean up after yourselves. Otherwise mommy and daddy have to do it. There are five of you and only two of us. See, look here. Perfect example: who shoved all these papers and toys and shoes and junk into the closet?”
“Uh, you did Dad. When Mrs. Gayer dropped by yesterday. Don’t you remember?”
“Of course I remember! I was testing you. How could I forget that? Anyway, as I was saying, let’s be sure to keep the closet clean shall we?”
Parents are supposed to “model” good behavior for the young by watching what we eat, say, and do. I try; I really do. But the habits of a lifetime are hard to break. I figured out many years ago that my factory setting is sloth.
I enjoy desert. I like the odd beer. I’m not a huge exercise guy. Some of that is my genetic inheritance, but most of it is just me. I could change if I really wanted to. Maybe someday I will.
Until then, I have to be savvy about covering up my daily mistakes. Little eyes see everything.
There are some mistakes that you can’t hide. I’m talking here about tattoos. I have two of them. It’s embarrassing. My kids can’t help but see them. What can I do about it now? There isn’t much.
“Listen up! Don’t get tattoos kids. You’ll regret it.” Okay, Dad. Whatever you say, big guy.
Somehow, my oldest child has sussed out that I was once a smoker. This is one of the worst health mistakes anyone can make. I’m terribly ashamed of it. The good news is that smoking seems to have gone out of fashion in the last 25 years or so.
Teenagers these days are doing other things besides smoking to rebel. Old man that I am, I have no idea what those things are. But they’d have to be marginally less unhealthy than lighting up, wouldn’t they? I can only hope that an old, faded picture of Daddy with a Camel dangling from his lips doesn’t undermine all the good I’ve tried to do as a parent.
We make mistakes. We’re not saints—though we strive to be. Just being fully present counts for a lot. Put the smartphone down. Turn off the computer and the TV. It’s all good. You get points for it.
You get points, too, for loving your spouse, and showing your kids what true marriage means—a lifelong covenant relationship built around love, respect, obedience, and openness to new life.
Of course, the real points accrue to those parents who provide an example of what it means to live with Christ at the center of everything. Go to mass. Partake of the sacraments. Glorify the Lord by your life.
If you have those bases covered, you’re doing well enough as a parent. I’d say you’re more than halfway home. So go ahead and help yourself to the odd beer. You deserve it.
From the November 2016 issue of Fairfield County Catholic.