Monday, March 19, 2007

Do As I Say...

Trying to be more optimistic today.

Felt terrible that I scared my sister yesterday. My point was misunderstood. I go to extremes when extremes are not necessary.

I can’t have simply made a mistake. I have to be the worst person in the world.

Walter and I were talking yesterday about the boys. He had taken Zachary to a scary movie on Saturday afternoon. Jeanine was unhappy with the movie choice. It wasn’t one I would choose but I felt like Walter needed his own autonomy to make the judgment. His time with the kids, his choice. Sure, we all need to talk about some decisions, but what movie to go to?

Hello? Micromanagement hotline?

It was too much, on some levels, he said. But, Zachary and I talked about it afterwards. He was fine. It was a good conversation. And then they had a manly nighttime snack of peanut butter, chocolate chips and a big glass of milk. Spoons straight in the peanut butter.

Walter said, I think it’s my role to take them to scary movies, push the limits you two (Jeanine and I) set. I’m their Dad. That’s what Dad’s do.

I could have listed about a thousand other non-traditional things he teaches them, like how to listen, how to reflect thoughtfully, how to love deeply and openly… but I let him have his say.

You are their Dad, I said smiling. It is your job. I knew when I had kids I needed someone who would push them, let them fail, let them lose, and be there when they did encouraging them to try again. My instinct is to shield them from harm. Make sure they’ve washed behind their ears. And don’t use spoons in the peanut butter.

But I know better. I know kids need a balance to be healthy. They have to fail. They have to fall down. Our job is to be there when it does. We can’t keep them from pain or fear or sadness. If we try to, we’ll smother them.

He looked at me and said, Do you hear yourself? Do you think it could apply to you? Maybe you need to fall down and make some mistakes, too? So you can learn it’s not the end of the world?

I should know better. I’m an adult, I said. No, I fucked up. No room for a break.

Cut yourself a little slack, he said. Everything is still pretty fresh. Your mom, all the stuff going on with your family…

It’s easier for me to talk about my kids.

I realize he is right. I need to cut myself some slack. I saw my mistake. I know my mother would have ripped into me for making one but I also know she was terrified of making mistakes. It froze her in place. I am messy, sloppy, and broken.

But I can’t stop trying.

Because if I do, what am I telling my kids? Do as I say, not as I do?


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