I’m not sure if this needs to be said, but my wife and I are learning to be parents on the fly. I’ve whole-heartedly embraced this reality, even referring to myself as “Dad ‘n Training” from time to time.
I can’t speak for my wife, but since Crash was born – almost 3 years ago – there haven’t been many days when I didn’t whisper this phrase to myself:
“I have NO IDEA what the hell I’m doing!!!!!!!”
After making this humbling declaration, however, I usually take a deep breath and just figure it out.
Most of the time, these moments of uncertainty revolve around little things – like how to clean poop out of “big boy undies” or deciding how many episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” he should watch in one afternoon.
But there are other instances when a deep breath and a quick decision aren’t applicable. These are much bigger judgment calls – game-changing philosophies about child rearing, with The Boy’s future hanging in the balance.
My thought process: This decision could determine if my son is a doctor or a serial killer.
My wife and I recently went through one of these parental crossroads together – it started with a placemat for school and ended with a Halloween costume contest.
Before I give you all the gory details, here’s how the story ends: We want our son to be the best at everything he does.
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Crash’s teacher had a thoughtful and creative idea to give her students something familiar to focus on at lunchtime. The assignment was simple: “Make a placemat for your child to eat on.”
I thought it was a great idea.
At Meet the Teacher Day, she showed me a couple of examples. They had the child’s name and couple/few photos. I immediately started to create The Boy’s placemat in my head. I planned on putting my Photoshop skills to good use and knock this assignment out of the park.
After hand picking photos and doing a little bit of design work, I printed out Crash’s placemat. (Not my best work, but a solid placemat for a 2 year old.)
I showed it to my wife, and her comment stunned me.
“Are the other placemats going to be this nice?”
I think I managed to say: “I’m not sure,” but it was hard to hear myself – mainly because in my head I was screaming, “What. Does. It. Really. Matter?!?!?!?”
I tried to let it go, but her nine words stuck with me all day.
I was mad.
I was frustrated.
I was confused.
That night, before we went to bed, I asked her if we could talk.
TK: “You want sex, don’t you?”
ME: “No…this is serious. It’s about Crash’s placemat.”
(I wish I could accurately capture the confusion on my wife’s face as she sat there silent. I could see her wheels turning: “No sex? Placemat?”)
ME: “More specifically about your comment this morning.”
(The fog of confusion slightly lifted.)