This past weekend I felt like a failure as a parent.  The week before zapped me of my energy (work and no sleep), and my normally short patience seemed to be non-existent.  Unfortunately this manifested itself several times with my daughter (V).

First, after several successive tirades of V willfully disobeying me and then throwing something I perceive as valuable on the floor, I came very close to spanking her.  This is something I’ve never done—willfully cause pain to my child.  Now there are lots of different views on “corporal punishment,” but my wife and I have decided that we would not engage in spanking (for good or ill). So I was equally surprised and dismayed when I realized how close I had come to doing that which I promised myself I would not do.  Luckily, I recognized I was in emotional-overload mode and walked away just as my wife entered the room to take over with V.

The other instance was on Sunday when my wife and I were simply exhausted after an all-day trip to DC.  Though V slept on the way home (a good 1 ½ hour nap), we had no such luck.  So she was rested and wanting to play in her energizer-bunny sort of way which we were just not up for.  We tried half-heartedly for a bit and did manage to do a few things, and then V asked to watch one of her DVDs.  Now I’ve been adamant about not wanting her to watch too much TV, especially since she tends to go from a bright-eyed bundle of energy to a lethargic zombie as she zones out watching all those images and sounds.  But I just didn’t have it in me to do anymore so I acquiesced to the TV gods and let V worship at their altar for a bit.  And I was glad for the break (shudders).  If I had had the energy, I would have showered to wash that filthy feeling off me for what I saw as a betrayal of my principals and, more importantly, my daughter’s development.

Now, in a slightly more lucid moment, I realize that these “failures” don’t really rank up there with, say, not knowing V has become a serial killer because we let her watch Dexter (we don’t, no worries).  But it did crack my idealistic image that I created for myself of the parent I strive to be.  And for someone with unrealistic (or so I’m told) expectations of himself and others, a fair amount of cognitive dissonance is caused whenever those expectations are not met.  As I’ve grown older, I hope I’ve grown wiser and I try to manage/adjust those expectations to something more realistic.  Of course, this usually happens after the fact and I could save myself a good deal of angst if I lowered my expectations from the start.  But as my wife knows all-too-well (she bears the brunt of my self-righteous tirades), that’s something I’ve never been able to do.

The second thing that happened was this weekend re-highlighted the enormous pressures, struggles, and work it takes a stay-at-home parent (like my wife) to maintain some sort of sanity and consistency in dealing with your child (especially a willful one!).  So to all you SAH parents, a sincere kudos to you! Keep up that tough (and, from what many express, the all-too-often unrecognized or invalidated) job.  Staying at home is often inordinately tough, and as long as your child is healthy, safe, and developing, tell anyone that gives you guff to try it for a week and see if they’re not reduced to a mewling, exhausted ball curled up in the corner at the end of it.

And to my wife, I love you, thank you for raising our daughter, and don’t ever feel bad about needing a break or not living up to our unrealistic ideals.  We’re only human after all, and we’re in this together like everything else we’ve done for the past 12 years.

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