As a Dad-in-Progress, I am always working to improve my parenting skills. Okay, that’s code for “I am a worrier who obsesses on whether I am doing all I can for my sons, and as a result, I tend to do too much and then wind up looking silly.”
A lot of us have been there, or are there right now, no matter how cool we pretend to be. And some of us multi-task our worries. I am a father of twin 16-year-old boys. Lots of potential for concern. But honestly, they aren’t the problem, i am.
See, I have different sides to my Dadness. There is Rational Dad, who is in control most of the time, Warrior Dad, who wants to go to battle for my sons’ best interests, and Worrier Dad, who obsesses about every detail of their lives beyond any measure of good judgment. The problem is Worrier Dad fuels Warrior Dad, they gang up on Rational Dad, and then I find myself in one of my sons’ rooms in mid-ranting speech.
And it can happen at any time, like Bruce Banner’s potential to turn into the Hulk.
Here’s a snapshot of Worrier Dad right at this moment:
1) Are my sons’ grades good enough to attract colleges? Have I held my expectations high enough? Are they too high? How high is too high? Am I high right now to ask these questions?
2) Are they considering the right college major for their talents? Should a guy who initially went to college to major in Rock Star really have a say in this?
3) How the Hell are we going to finance two college tuitions? Is bank robbery a viable option?
4) Are they taking their SATs seriously? Should I push them? Have I pushed them too much so now they hate and fear the SATs? Do I hate and fear the SATs? (Ummm, yes.)
5) How is their social life? Do I push them to date more? Less? Do I hang back and not get involved because it is their business? Are they experienced enough to succeed socially in college? Should I ask their Uncle Mikey to set them up with those friendly girls from that bachelor party?
6) One guy’s working a crappy teenage job, the other is laying on the floor memorizing ESPN. Is the working guy working too much? Is Dr. ESPN not working enough? How do chores fit in fairly?
7) Lots of kids their age are out drinking at parties. My guys are not. Do I rejoice in their moral turpitude? Do I cringe that they may be crippling their social standing because Dad is a strict jerk? Should I even be looking this gift horse in the mouth?
8) What the Hell is going on in their rooms? It looks like their drawers vomited up all the clothes they own. Should I hire armed guards to keep them in there until they clean up? Or should I just pitch a new version of The Odd Couple featuring Oscar and Oscar?
9) They bicker a lot. Are they going to be close as adults? Should we have had more kids for me to obsess over? Would that have attracted the attention of Child Services?
10) is Xbox ruining their cognitive skills? Are they reading enough? Do they sleep too much? Not enough? Eat too much junk? Not enough asparagus? Do they get enough exercise? Are they ready for a zombie apocalypse?
Yeah, that’s about five seconds in my brain. And if I am not careful, any one of those thoughts can expand and I will find myself upstairs in their room trying to “address the issue.” Hulk smash.
But here’s the thing. In my moments of clarity, I know my sons are solidly moral, upstanding citizens. What more can any parent expect? And this is the thought that brings me back to Earth.
It is okay for us to worry; it is in our parental DNA. The key is to look at your children objectively, or at least honestly, or with the help of the sane partner in the relationship (in this case, my wife).
Use the Worrier Dad to fuel calm discussions from Rational Dad, not scorched earth campaigns from Warrior Dad, and be willing to actively laugh when one of the goofier sides of you threatens to Hulk out. If you can do this, the offspring will always benefit from your extra effort.
And that’s the goal, isn’t it? Hulk smile fondly at him kids.