There are days where I hate parenting. Today was one. After an entire day of fun filled magic at Disney World, I spent the last hour sitting in the car with my oldest son.
Orlando in October is remarkably still hot and humid, but we were not to be deterred. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom as it opened armed with packed lunches and plans of not leaving until after the closing fireworks. The boys are big enough now that there is no ride off limits. And it’s well worth it. I rode rides that I hate like the tea-pots and introduced them to Splash Mountain. Minus one hiccup where I argued fast pass ratios with a manager, the day was great. Until about three o-clock.
While we were waiting for the Main Street Parade, I went scavenging for some ice cream to cool us off. When I got back the look on my wife’s face said it all. We figured the ice cream and then some dinner would fix it, but it just progressed. Every time I turned my back, my oldest son was complaining he was done. So as we sat down on the sidewalk waiting for the Electric Parade he received his last warning; “Complain again and we’ll go sit in the car”. It only took 5 minutes for his “I want to go home”, so I promptly picked him up and walk to the car so that my wife and youngest could enjoy the last moments of magic. I didn’t want to leave, but everything I know of parenting says don’t make a threat for punishment if you won’t follow through.
I sat in the car rolling everything through my head: ungrateful, spoiled, selfish, stubborn. Then the questions come flooding in:
Did I do the right thing?
Does he even understand what’s going on?
Did I just ruin all of our vacation?
Am I a good father?
My consolation from those wiser than me is “He’ll appreciate it when he gets older. You did the right thing.” But did I? If it’s right why am I always second guessing myself?
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the world’s greatest parent. I fill the stereotypical “Dad” role. The one where you’re in trouble for teaching the boys how to shoot bottle rockets at each other while at the same time filling the “wait until your father gets home” job duties. It’s bedtime stories and water guns balanced by moments sitting in the Disney World parking lot.
But what I hate about being a dad is the nurturing part. There’s typically something in dads that kills nurturing. It comes secondary to discipline and goofing off. I’m great for the kid part: riding bikes and wrestling. But what happens when one of those things goes wrong? They run to mom. Why? Because mom kisses are a healing balm. Dad kisses (or spit as you rub off the dirt and say “walk it off”) are filled with burning venom.
Now I’m not saying being a father is harder than a mother. My wife is the far superior parent and is the sole reason all of us have survived together to this point. Being a good father doesn’t seem to come as naturally as mothering does. The moment children are born mothers have a special bond. Fathers are wandering around celebrating with buddies because we’re afraid we might kill it if we hold it too long. Then like cave men, we count down the years to teaching them to hunt or what football team to cheer for.
There’s so much I love about my boys and the time I spend with them, but it’s moments like this where I wonder is being a “good” parent worth it? Making sacrifices and teaching tough lessons even at the risk of my own personal enjoyment? I hate these days and these moments of parenting. But when I realize my alternative is Honey Boo Boo, I think I’ll spend the time sitting in the car because even TLC can’t pay me enough to mess up my kid like that.