Every so often I am overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility I have for my children. And not in a "Oh my god, I can't believe how all I do all day is take care of these kids and I can't do it any more!" way but in a "Oh my god, I have so much power in their little lives and I can't screw this up because I don't want them to be criminals someday." kind of way.
It's kind of a big deal, this parenting gig. You try so hard to do everything right but the fact is that everyone who parents is doing SOMETHING wrong. We're too cautious, we're not cautious enough. We push too hard, we don't push hard enough. We put strict limits on screen time and junk food, we say "Go watch Dora so I can edit some pictures and here's an ice cream sandwich for lunch. Don't tell grandma."
So knowing that most of us are doing the best we can and that we all occasionally screw up I try hard not to judge when I see parents doing things a little differently than me. Sometimes though ... sometimes I see parents doing things that make me think "Oh come on buddy! Are you for real?"
At soccer yesterday there was a little boy on the opposing team who had no interest at all in being there or playing soccer. He sat down in the grass. He wandered around. He picked his nose. He looked bored. Every so often his dad would call to him "Come on! Get out there and play! Run! Run! Run!"
The little boy would whine "I caaaaaaannn't!" or "I'm toooooo hooooot!" or "It's hard! The balls don't come to meeeeeee!"
This was clearly bothering the dad. He started to get antsy. "There! There! Get that ball there! Go! Come one! Run!" ( In Elle's soccer program they throw like five balls on the field at a time so that everyone gets a chance to play and kick the ball. I call it the No Hurt Feelings League.)
Anxious dad got more and more worried as his son refused to play. He started pacing. "THERE! THAT BALL RIGHT THERE! GET IT! RUUUUUUUUN!" All the other parents started to look at him and exchange glances with each other. A woman near me muttered to no one in particular "Way to have a stroke over pre-school soccer."
All of the sudden anxious dad ran on to the field. He scooped up an used ball. He ran over to his kid and said proudly "Here, I got you a ball! Kick this one!" And he stood back and looked really pleased with himself as his kid whined his disinterest and sort of took a half hearted swipe at the ball.
Anxious dad started to walk away but then ... he paused. And picked up another ball to bring to his kid. And then another. And another. And another. So now in addition to a dozen four and five year olds on the field there was a full grown man running around and scooping up balls. It was not ridiculous at all. Each time he would bring his son a ball he look so pleased with himself, like a cat presenting it's owner with a dead mouse.
Now the kid still didn't want to be there or to kick the balls that were being brought to him. He was just getting more and more annoyed. Elle started to take an interest in the whole thing though. She watched for a moment and then a smile spread slowly across her face.
I don't know if I've ever told you this but I think Elle is part evil genius. She went over to the disinterested kid and as soon as anxious dad set a ball down Elle swooped in and kicked it away. She kicked it down the field and then ran back to get another ball. She kept doing it. Every time anxious dad tried to give his son a ball to kick Elle would run over and kick it away.
Anxious dad was not pleased and at one point he looked over at me like he wanted help dealing with my out of control child. I pretended I didn't see him. Thankfully the whistle blew soon after and ended the game. Anxious dad walked off the field. He was red faced and sweaty. Disinterested kid remained disinterested.
So, see? We can't judge. We all make mistakes. Some of us get totally owned by a feisty red headed five year old. Some of us sit back and laugh quietly while it happens. None of us are perfect.
Three years ago today my kids were chums.