How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Scamming Yourself

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you today by LifeLock, a leader in identity theft protection. This post is my own opinion and my crazytalk doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Lifelock or its staff.

I’m tired of scamming myself into thinking I’m a good enough parent.

I’ve realized today, after a 21-hour run, that parenting isn’t just educating, improving and protecting the survival of children. I mean it’s all those things too, I suppose, but it’s got to also include time alone with my son exploring the world together and playing, cultivating our personalities together like gardeners of each other’s souls.

My boy lights me up. Can you tell? Photo by: Tami Bahat

It’s obviously not the same thing to say that playing with Finn and feeding him are one in the same, but there’s a different health at stake when all I do is the robotic work of waking up, changing diapers, costuming, bottle-making (or sippy cup refills), routine feedings, applying distractions and repeat.

That’s mechanical. It’s uninspired. And not just for Finn, for me.

Every day we adults (oh crap, am I an adult?) watch out for the usual scams. The Nigerian Princes offering to increase the size of our bank account or our manhood (as if it could be improved). Websites asking to login “again” to our social security numbers. Emails trying to phish our credit card info. There are endless traps.

But there’s something else we are being scammed out of and with our full complicity. We’re being scammed out of our experience. My father chose not to be sober; that was his distraction. We bring our workday home with us, if only the residue of stress and can’t see outside it. I see dads pounding away at their phones (uh, oh — pot and kettle coming right up!) while their kids create their own adventures. Sure, our little people need to be self-sufficient, but I don’t want to miss out on the limited chance I have in harvesting the unbridled fun out of my son’s younger years.

Hey Charlie, GET YOUR PHONE OUT OF YOUR HAND.

This is what we have: less than a score of years to live as children with them, inside their imaginations and connected to them before all the heavy inculcation and hard knocks.

An enduring bond might be included for the price of admission into Parentland, but the quality of our connection derives from the character of those frivolous moments. Doing only the things we’re supposed to do is a scam. What about enjoyment? What about the wasting of time and having a blast? Those won’t be fulfilled by plopping him in front of Sesame street.

Twenty one hours later, and all I can say is I have to dig deeper. Find the time.

-

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Photo credit: BLMurch
 

21 Comments

21 Responses to “Scamming Yourself”

  1. Canadian Dad says:

    Well said Charlie! I went through the same thing and realized that all the extra crap we worry about isn’t worth it, when you can spend that extra time with your kid, having fun.

    Now we go out to the store in our costumes, we take our fake swords to the forest and “hunt”, we just do whatever we can to escape the dullness that everyday life can bring sometimes. Be goofy with Finn, it doesn’t matter who else is watching, as long as you and him are having fun!

    PS – I like that you threw in The Nigerian Princes, lol. Stupid spammers!

    Chris

  2. ddywgn says:

    If you don’t want to grow up, hang with kids. My 3 &6 year olds are the funnest people to hang out with. Next to them are my middle school students. I’ll never be an ‘”adult” if I’m lucky.

  3. Christina says:

    I struggle with this one. A part of it is personality – I’m really very much an observer – and another part is just personality flaw – I’m lazy.

    Its hard to do, and because its hard, I don’t really try.

    But at the same time, I think of myself at my kids age, and I was very happy having my own little world without my parents’ influence. It was more wondrous – and if my parents didn’t understand, I wasn’t limited by their attempts at understanding or their misconstrued perception.

    I was perhaps Enya’s Wild Child. Scampering through the woods in search of fairies, constantly in search of that perfect copse of trees with soft bed on the ground and a cathedral of filtered, leaf-tinted light. Having an adult around would have just been awkward (like watching Beast and Beauty kissing in front of my parents).

    Its not that I had bad parents. Really, having so many siblings I doubt they could’ve given that kind of attention, anyway.

    Just saying, as a child I did enjoy the time I had free of adult-influenced play time. Because regardless of how you behave or pretend, we don’t believe in Santa Clause and we don’t believe in fairies.

    • Seth says:

      I agree with your sentiments. There is a balance to be had though. The main point is to think about it when you’re setting up some distraction for your child while you settle into whatever thing you want to be doing. Don’t get in the way of your kids, but conversely, don’t trick yourself into thinking you are getting out of their way, when the truth is you are getting them out of yours.

      • Christina says:

        Because I’m struggling with this in my parenting life right now, this made me go “Ouch.”

        But hopefully its the ouch I feel after a gym workout – makes me stronger and better.

    • Emma says:

      I beleive in faeries! And no amount of growing up will ever take that away from me!

      Too bad I don’t have a daughter to share that with. I don’t think my son really gives a crap about faeries =(

      • Christina says:

        Dragons! Dragons are just as good as faries. Its just that instead of searching for little fairy cathedrals, you need to look for scorched earth!

        Lol. Wonder and imagination are what I want in my kids more than anything else in the world!

  4. Snick says:

    Aww, so strange that you should be writing this as this has been particularly on my mind as of late. I have 3 little girls. Eva, 5, Jovie, 2, and Phynn, 4 months. I feel the same way. It’s time to be intentional with our kids. Forsake the chores for a day and just make memories. Easier said than done. These tender years will be gone before we know it.

  5. Aeriskate says:

    Yes…I struggle with this on a daily basis. I have a love/hate relationship with the computer/internet. I have a hard time unplugging because I feel like I am going to miss something I guess…but what I’m really missing is quality time with my kids.

  6. I always love to read your stuff, and you are so right. Time is what kids need most, and what they get least. So, put down the phone, turn off the TV, let the dishes sit and ENJOY YOUR KIDS! <3

  7. Jackie s says:

    Great post, soo true.

    On an unrelated note.. What jeans are u wearing in the last picture? My husband needs some like that and hates when theyre too tight or loose. Very random question, i know.

  8. jetts31 says:

    Amen.
    I always made it a habit about daydreaming. Looking at clouds. Counting the cars that go by. Drawing a picture or whatever else popped in to our minds at the time. We and our kids live in a life of structure and routine. Sometimes its nice to break from all of it and imagine the cloud looks like a hippo with wings.

  9. irishtrash5 says:

    So true Sonny Jim! Thankfully I have Steph to remind me from time to time as needed!
    I love my dad to death and some of my favorite memories are the few times he got a chance to do the same with me!!

  10. MotherDuck says:

    Heart strings pulled. I struggle with this daily. I think “Oh God! What am I missing out on or more importantly what are they missing out on?” Some days I think about running off to the middle of no where and homeschooling them and eating from our own gardens and throwing away all electronic devices, mainly TV’s. But another day goes by, week, month and year and now they are 7 and 10 and act like teenagers and sometimes they forget to say hi to me after I walk in the door after a 12 hour work day. That is killing me slowly. So you’ve inspired me to start with something and grab my life and their lives back. Thanks Charlie. :)

  11. Dave says:

    I struggle with this a lot, mainly because I am a divorced Dad. We only get every other weekend and one night a week. My time with them is at a minimum, so I feel like I have to make every second count. But ironically, it has made me a much better Dad in that I don’t take them for granted any more. Not that I wasn’t a good Dad before, but I am much more focused and intent on being the best Dad I can be.

    I used to plan a bunch of activities for them every other weekend. Truth is, our kids just want us THERE. WITH THEM. Whether or not we are fully engaged or not, just be with them. Be THERE for THEM.

  12. Chris @ CleverFather says:

    Great post. It really hits home what is truly important. I wrote a post a while back about how our kids don’t care about our adult problems. All they see is dad too busy to play.

    Personally I’ve been struggling with the balance between parenting and blogging…. Which seems almost ironic as its a dad blog :p

    Go figure.

  13. JeninCanada says:

    As someone who’s parents rarely played with her, this post (as with so many you’ve done here at H2BAD) brought a tear to my eye. My mom and dad worked all day, came home, made and ate dinner, and I was left mostly to my own devices with friends. They were usually too tired, or frustrated, to play. But the best memories I DO have are when we played, or did other things, together. There aren’t many of those memories, but the ones I do have I treasure deeply.

  14. Stephanie K. says:

    I love this so so much! It’s absolutely true!

  15. Basil says:

    Awesome article. You don’t need to color-tone your photos, though :)

  16. Noush says:

    my favorite entry yet. thanks, charlie.

  17. Love this. So true.

    Steph

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