The way I’m raising my kids is slightly different than the way my parents raised me. Well, let’s face it, the way I’m raising my kids is a lot different than how I was raised.
That’s not a criticism of my parents, in fact I’d kill to be able to give my kids the upbringing that I had. I just can’t do it. Life got in the way of the best laid plans, I suppose you could say.
Here’s what’s different: I was raised by my father and mother, both, and they did a really good job. Sure, I do things a bit differently, I’m a different person with similar genetic makeup. Some things are the same. I say things once in awhile and my oldest daughter says things like: “god, you sound like Grandpa” and I kind of like that. I admire my father, he’s the greatest man I know. I also admire my mother, who had to be one of the strongest women I’ve ever met to raise three strong-willed and sarcastic sons.
My Mom is a nurse. She never got her certification, she got married and stayed home to take care of us. I never looked at her as less of a person or less capable as anyone else because she was whip-smart, stern, and could be the most loving person I’d ever met. I know, because I tended to, as a little kid, need more care and attention because I was very sick. There was no way she could have worked, if she wanted to, because I was in and out of the hospital. Every person who tries to tell me or my kids that a woman – who is like my Mom, anyway – who stays home either isn’t working or is contributing less to our society angers me more when they make those crass statements.
I would kill to be able to stay home. Not because I’m lazy but because there are too many things with too little time to do them all. When my wife was around we had basketball games, school plays, Boy Scouts, all of that. Extracurricular activities were like any other family. I volunteered at school – a lot – and so did my wife.
When I was a kid I did all that, too. My Mom had dinner ready, there was no scramble, at least that we were aware of, and we always got to things on-time. My older brother didn’t always come to our events, but I didn’t expect him to, either. My Mom was home and we ate early on nights we had a play or what have you and we got home and the routine seemed to hold. My Dad, in his busiest years, still managed to meet us at the school plays and games. Basketball games . . . he drove us to those himself. My Mom drove us to state music contests on the other side of the state. All that was available.
I don’t have that routine the way she did. There’s no other person there to help and everything’s a mad scramble. Tonight was a perfect example of that. I was texting Abbi, my oldest, on what temperature to put a small ham in the oven. I had leftover rice for the side. I raced home, but traffic was a nightmare. There’s no other person to wrangle the kids, so Abbi had already left for her drama department’s “Improv Night.” I got home at 6:30pm and cut the ham, laid out the plates on the table, and raced out the door. I got to the school right about 6:59pm. Two hours later, my ribs appropriately tickled and I gave my daughter a hug and told her she made me laugh. It made her smile.
So, yeah, if I’d been smart I’d have cornered the market on lottery tickets (I didn’t, it was raining and I had no time) and prayed that I get a portion of that Powerball tomorrow. Instead, though, I powered through. My three kids ate. I would eat later. It’s not a punishment and it’s not that I’m complaining. I’ve missed meals. I’ve skipped several in a day, in fact, only to realize at midnight I was starving. I thought to myself on the way to that theater that I might have messed things up a bit. I’m only one person, after all.
But when I opened the door and walked in the theater, there, peeking around other actors, was Abbi. She was content, but when she saw me walk in her face lit up, and her eyes sparkled. That snuggly little bear of mine – now a woman I suppose – was happy. I remembered that look, that feeling, when I’d peek through the curtain and see my Mom and Dad sitting in the audience. They never missed a show.
I don’t raise my kids the same way. Still, I got a few things right.