Like lots of dads, Ted struggles to maintain a calm center when the kids’ emotions begin to get blustery. In this post, he explores how we gauge “success” as parents – and whether that term needs redefining.
It’s Not Always Warm And Fuzzy
by Ted Olson
My wife and I decided to take our four kids and my mother-in-law to a local lake in the next town over. Getting four spirited kids out of the house is never easy. The anxiety and excitement can create tension, teasing, and fighting. We hit all three of these and more.
A half hour prior to leaving, Katy started complaining that her tummy hurt. She spent 20 minutes on the couch in my wife’s lap. This created even more tension and anxiety, and I had to run around alone getting everything ready.
We got out the door, but because Nana was riding in the car with us, we had to rearrange some seats. My kids are fairly possessive of their seating arrangements so this set off a bit of a tirade. I was losing my patience, empathy, and compassion. The thermometer of my anger was steadily climbing.
Finally we were off. A short, but loud ride, and we were at the lake. As we pulled in, there was a hand-written sign at the gate that stated: TODAY – RESIDENTS ONLY. We stopped the minivan packed full with 7 people and their gear. Tears and protests erupted from our kids. We pleaded with the attendant who could only apologize, stating it was a last minute decision from her boss. Anger flashed through my brain. I drove off.
At this point, I was not in a good place. It had been a tough weekend, and I was on emotional reserves at this point. My wife, however, was able to maintain her emotional center. She was able to carry the day and allow each of our kids, and me, to feel our feelings. Her calm center helped defuse the situation, and it helped all of us focus on what we could do.
As we arrived back home I went to work setting up a water slide we have. While the kids played, I talked with my wife about how I was not able to be as supportive as I would have liked. She replied, perhaps too generously, that I was supportive. She knows how I struggle with anger, and pointed out that I didn’t let it show. That I was able to not explode – even though I wanted to – was a success in and of itself.
We tend to think that everything has to have gone well in order to be labeled successful. But true empathy, compassion, and love can be quite a struggle. When we make a better choice today than we did yesterday, when we are able to be a little more patient, a little more understanding than we have been in the past, well, that’s success right there.
Even if it’s not all warm and fuzzy.
In addition to being an unschooling dad, Ted is the voice behind HolisticFaith.com, where he writes about religion, faith, spirituality and life.