Monday, March 9, 2015

Sledding... And my failings as a parent

Usually when I write about my experience as a parent, I'm writing about the wonderful thing I did with my kid, or how smart or funny my kid is, or how outraged I am that other people aren't parenting the way good parents should, or something along these lines.

Today, I will be writing about the mediocre job I did as a parent this past weekend.  And why it might be okay, even though I still feel bad.

We went to my wife's aunt's farm this past weekend.  It was a good passel of people, including our family, my wife's brother's family (2 kids a little older) , my wife's aunt, my wife's grandmother, and joining us on Sunday, my wife's aunt's kids (older).  The farm is a beautiful working farm/weekend get away place,  about 90 minutes from Chicago, and it's just gorgeous. There are outbuildings, and barns, and a fishing hole and horses and goats, and during the summer fresh vegetables galore.  It's my son's happy place.

We've had lots of parties and happy occasions there. We even spent some time living there this past summer while we had moved out of our house in NY and were waiting to move into our house in Chicago.
It should have been me standing over my son in the cold.
We went up there to celebrate a cousin's birthday, and for the sledding.  Here in Chicago the weather is finally warming up, and there is a big hill there with lots of snow and.... do I need to spell it out?  The promise of sledding there is remarkable for a 6 year old city boy.

All the way up to the farm, we were looking at dwindling amounts of snow, and patchy grass sticking through the snow, and trying to prepare the boy for the possibility that Pengy (his newly bought, never used plastic sledding device in the shape of a penguin) might not be able to get used.  But when we got there, there was plenty of snow.  And the weather was beautiful!

The cousins were already there, and as soon as we got there, my son suited up and ran to the hill, and proceeded to go up and down that hill about 50 times over the next 5 hours.  Plus build snow forts, have a snowball fight, learning to snowboard, getting cold, coming in for chocolate, etc.

Here's where I failed as a parent.  I didn't go out there once.  I had 100 excuses-- I didn't bring snow pants, I'm too heavy for the sled, I'd get all wet, I wasn't feeling up for it, I didn't want to.  Ultimately it came down to the last one.  Yes, I felt like I should have gone out there.  But I didn't want to go out there.  I liked it inside, where it was warm and cosy and I was reading and playing a video game.     I liked pretending my time was my own, and I could do whatever I wanted with it.  I didn't want to leave my comfortable area and get dirty and cold and sweaty and.... whatever. It was an excuse.

Here's where I was a good dad:  That night, he had worked so hard that he started having leg cramps.  He was supposed to sleep on the floor with the cousins, but it hurt so much, and he was in such pain that I put him into our bed, and I rubbed his legs, and held him and told him stories until he was able to fall asleep.

Back to being a bad dad: The next day came, and some more cousins came over, and the kids went sledding again, and I should have gone out there.  But somehow I managed to avoid it.  No bells went off.  No "bad parenting" alerts occurred, except the one inside my brain, the one that said, "Hey go out there!" But I ignored it.

 I'm pretty sure it would have been fine.  I just didn't force myself to do it.

Here's the part where it's okay.  My son had a wonderful time without me.  He was playing with his cousins, having a great time, and he didn't need me there.  He didn't miss me out there. But it would have been fun to share that with him.

Here he is in a slo-mo snowboard wipeout.  One that I missed:  (video courtesy of a cousin!)

Today, the next day, I am regretting not going, and sharing this fun time with him, even if it wasn't particularly what I wanted to do.

And the next time we go sledding (next year?) I am going to push myself to go.

I hope.


Mark Binder said...

Helicopter parenting is not good parenting. Leaving your son to play on his own builds independence. No bad parenting happened. Maybe, however, you secretly selfishly wanted to sled?


Thanks Mark! I agree about independence, but I feel like I could have done better. Next time.

And yes, I should have pulled out the hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps for some Rhode Island style sledding! (After dark at Roger Williams Park we used to go!)

Larry said...

I think you are being hard on yourself. He had a great time and you just weren't into it.
It's probably more guilt - don't want to miss a moment - than being a bad parent.
No need. You're allowed to have your moments too.


Thanks Larry. You are probably right. But I felt like I should be into it. And even if I wasn't into it, at least be in the moment about it.