As much as I’d like to believe that I’m not botching my responsibilities as a parent, doubts creep in and become frequent if uninvited guests. It’s not I’m intentionally doing a poor job. But often the evidence that the kids are heading in the right direction is elusive. I’m constantly looking for clues that I’m doing more good than harm. The days I could use some reassurance tend to coincide with those times our children act up or I exhibit less patience than I should.
Unlike my job where I’m given a biannual performance review and can make subtle repairs and minor fixes to projects I’m responsible for, parenting often feels like a series of pop quizzes that are collected, recorded but final grades won’t be posted for another sixteen years.
I’m left to decide on my own how I’m progressing as a father. By the time our third child arrived I decided I can’t be everywhere at once. Attempting to attend every school, sporting, or church activity resulted in a feeling of being everywhere yet nowhere.
A few years back, I tried to squeeze in a field trip with my daughter’s class between a full days worth of work and church commitments. I had the day planned down to the minute. I’d meet me daughter in Seattle, jump on the boat tour, and race back to work. I could say I made the effort, but day was a blur.
And I missed my favorite part of the day: sitting next to my daughter on the bus ride to and from the city. We chat and we laugh. And Luca enjoys using my iPhone to take pictures of us making goofy faces.
Nowadays, I’m selective but present. Even if that means taking the day off work, turning off my phone or catching up on email once the kids are in bed.
This weekend I took my oldest and youngest children to the barber shop. While I sat in a black leather barber chair, I watched in the mirror how Luca interacted with her brother, Kai, who can be wiggly and generally difficult to contain.
But I was impressed with what I saw.
Luca showed Kai the weather on her iPod Touch. She played games with him. She talked to him, held him close and gently nudged him back on the bench when he was preparing to make a dash for the exit. At one point she held her hand up to his hand while they compared the size difference. Kai laughed and smiled and was captivated by his sister.
But what I realized above all is the love my oldest daughter and youngest son have for each other. And watching them, if only for a moment, gave me hope that my efforts as their father are doing more good than harm.