Tonight I’m going to a choral concert that my youngest is performing in. I do enjoy watching her sing. But can I be honest? I don’t so much enjoy watching everyone else’s kids perform. Does that make me a bad person?
I mean, I’m trying to get better about it. The last concert I tried to be mindful and stay in the moment and just enjoy being there. I also tried to really see each kid and appreciate them for showing up and being their unique wonderful selves. And it did work. At least a little bit.
And I don’t mean to knock school concerts. At least they aren’t anywhere near as root canal painful as dance recitals (apologies to all the dance moms and dads out there). I remember going to my niece’s recitals. She’d be like #47 and then #123 and then #548 to perform. It would take forever between her dances and the entire recital would span days. When I’d walk out of the auditorium after those things the world always felt different. Once I almost dropped to my knees and kissed the parking lot.
But anyway, I’m getting sidetracked.
My daughter has a concert tonight and I’m going to go to it and enjoy it. And I’m sure her mom won’t show up and that sucks. But after all these years, it’s just what happens. And I don’t want extra bonus points because I do go. Seriously. It’s what parents do. And, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world. Seriously.
I guess maybe it drops me into a category of potentially being a good parent. But I feel funny admitting that. Because as parents – and especially as a singe parent – it feels like we aren’t supposed to strive to be good parents. We’re supposed to just be good parents. Right? As if the striving makes us too selfish or something.
But I do strive to be a good parent. Mostly for my kids but also for myself. Of course I want to be a good parent so my kids grow-up to lead healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives. I want them to be good people. Good, well-rounded people. That’s the main reason I strive to be a good parent. But, I’m not ashamed to admit that I also want to be a good parent so I can feel good about myself. It’s okay to partially define myself as a good parent.
For a while, I mostly defined myself as a single parent. That’s where I placed almost all of my own value. In doing that, I lost myself. I lost my own identity. I went too far. And losing myself – myself meaning me individually: as a man, as a writer, as a friend, etc. – eventually made me less of a good parent. Yes, neglecting my own selfish needs stopped me from reaching my potential to be a really good parent.
For years after my divorce, if anyone asked me for advice about being a single parent, I would always say something like: “Focus on your kids.” This is great advice. And it should be every parent’s #1 thing: focus on your kids.
BUT… now I know #2 or maybe even #1a should be: “Focus on yourself too.” Because focusing only on my kids robbed my own inner spirit of a complete life. And you know what? I think it robbed my kids of something too.
I guess now is a good time to bring-up the fact that I’m constantly questioning what type of parent I want to be and constantly struggling to be a good parent every single day. it’s not easy. It’s almost impossible at times.
It certainly feels impossible sometimes.
And I am not perfect. Far from it.
But when I screw-up, I tell my kids I screwed up. I let them see that I’m not perfect. (What human being is?) But I also show my kids that it’s okay to be wrong and the ability to admit mistakes and sincerely apologize is far more important than being perfect. Because nothing is perfect. And to only show my kids perfection (or an illusion of perfection) would actually be doing them a disservice.
So, I’m learning to be okay with not being a perfect parent all the time. In fact, there are times when I might not even be a good parent. I can only hope and pray that I recognize these moments and atone for them.
But having moments of imperfection or not always being a good parent doesn’t make me a bad parent. It only makes me human. And again, I think it’s more important to teach my kids what messy love looks like. Teaching messy is simply teaching life. Right?
So, the new thing I’m trying is to schedule a time every single week when I spend an evening with one kid and then another evening with the other kid. This gives one night a week when each kid has me all to themselves. And it gives each kid a night of quiet and freedom at home – something both of my kids enjoy.
I committed to doing this many years ago. But life gets in the way and the evenings only happened maybe 4 or 5 times a year. But now, I’m absolutely committed to it. Every week.
I follow my own 4 Cs with my kids. The Cs are: consistency, clarity, consequences, and compassion. All 4 of these are very important. But, at least for my kids, I’m learning that compassion is the most important. Love. Showing them love. Showing them that I always try to lead with love, not only with them, with everyone and everything.
And taking each of them out once a week is part of that compassion, part of that love.
But in everything I do, I always have to remind myself:
Lead with love.
Lead with love.
Lead with love!
And that bring me back to tonight’s concert. I really do want to go and see my daughter sing. But a part of me really doesn’t want to sit there while other kids sing. But, I’m going because I love my daughter. And I am going because I will sit there and listen to other people’s children sing too. And I will lead with love through it all. And when it’s over, I’ll give my daughter a big hug and be proud that she likes to sing. And I’ll be grateful that I was there. And I will choose to love every minute of it. Because sometimes, love can be a choice. And tonight it’s what I’ll choose.