I have a confession to make. While technically speaking, I was raised in a Presbyterian household, I am sure that my parents secretly must have been practicing Catholics. Because for my entire adult life, no matter how hard I tried, I never felt my efforts were good enough. I’ve always felt guilty. Especially when it comes to parenting.
When our two girls were toddlers, I mainly swung between three emotional states: totally overwhelmed, utterly exhausted and constantly feeling guilty. That guilt was usually caused by my feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted. When I became so sleep-deprived that I simply had to take a nap, I felt guilty for napping. I mean, a good dad would surely tough it out and watch a Sponge Bob video with the kids – for the 475th time. What kind of dad was I! For shame.
I felt guilty about my job in a dot-com start-up where for years I routinely worked 75-hour weeks. For some periods, I was essentially an absentee parent until the weekend arrived. And on those rare occasions when I was able to leave work before 6pm, I felt guilty because all the other managers (who were all 15 years younger, single and child-free) would still be there well past 8pm.
I felt guilty that my wife unfairly bore the burden of most of the household chores, not to mention the 4am feedings and diaper-changes. And by the time I finally got around to pulling my share of changing our girls’ diapers, I felt guilty that it took me so long to pitch in. I suspect that on some level our girls probably resented the delay in my efforts, too, especially because they were seven and six years old by that time.
If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that in the end, your kids will crush your dreams, ignore all your well-intentioned advice, join a biker gang, and never write to thank you for teaching them how to ride a bike in 4th grade.
But if there is a second thing I learned, it’s that you need to be positive. As most of you know, outside of my immediate family, I am considered a highly regarded parenting expert. My latest parenting book, A Positive Parent’s Guide to Loving Your Child, even if They’re an Evil, Twisted, Unmotivated, Narcissistic Demon Seed Hellion Who Will Never Amount to Anything in this World is helping millions of frustrated parents everywhere deal with their challenging child. The key? Remain positive at all times.
This week, I dip into Dr. Tim’s Mailbag, to share examples of how you can successfully apply my powerful patent-pending positive parenting process to help your own challenging child blossom to one quarter of their God-given potential.
Last week I started to discuss nine things that I wished I hadn’t worried about so much as a parent over the past 16 years. I tried to be a conscientious parent, but in the process, I realize now that I made a lot of mistakes, like the time I sent around the Adoption announcement after we adopted our first daughter as a four-month old infant in China. There she was in the picture, this cute little bundle of joy, wearing a sweater with the words “Made in China” emblazoned across the front. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew it would scar my daughter for life?
If you missed it, you can read Part I of the nine things I wish I hadn’t worried about here. To continue with my list…..
Lesson Six: Put your toys away after you use them. I thought it was a pretty simple concept: The toys go back in the toy box. The dirty dishes go in the dish washer. Put your used bath towel back on the towel rack. But apparently the process is far more complicated than I ever realized because 15 years later, my daily message still appears to be as undecipherable to my teenage girls as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Whenever I’ve said “Please hang your coat in the coat closet,” somewhere between the time the words leave my mouth and enter their inner ear, the audio waves must somehow morph the sound of my words into “please don’t hang up your coat. I want to remember it lying there, in the middle of the kitchen table, on top of your dirty gym clothes, forever.” The typical response I get to any request to put an item away is always the same: “Yeah, I know” – which I now am convinced translates loosely as “over my dead body.”
As a parent, you never stop worrying about your kids or how they will turn out. Will they grow up safe? Will they make good choices? Will they ever forgive you for buying them those matching green and orange plaid square dance dresses for their 13th and 14th birthdays? My two teenage daughters, Rachel and Emily (shown at left when they were much younger), are only a two and three years away, respectively, from heading off to college. [Editor’s note: My wife hates when I talk about our kids by name in my blog. Something about respecting their privacy. So for the rest of this blog, the part of Rachel will be played by Vivian. The part of Emily will be played by Nicole.]
The other day, I reflected on all the things I’ve worried about as a parent. I came to a startling realization: I spent much of the past 16 years needlessly worrying – fretting over how to be a better parent, be a positive role model, and keep my kids from making poor choices. In retrospect, I needn’t have been so anxious. I was never going to get it right. I finally realized that my kids were going to make it through this bumpy journey called childhood (moderately unscathed), regardless of my egregious parenting mistakes. In retrospect, I should have spent a lot less time worrying about whether they brushed their teeth and a lot more time about worrying how to cure my slice in golf. Then again, trying to cure my golf slice is about as futile as trying to be the perfect parent. Both end up in bitter disappointment.
Here are nine parenting lessons I wish I hadn’t worried about nearly so much over the past 16 years:
This week, I dug deep into the Dr. Tim advice column mailbag and came up with the following very informative letter:
Dear Dr. Tim:
My 16-year old daughter now has a boyfriend. Should I kill myself?
Signed, Terrified in Tacoma.
Thank you for your very detailed and well-constructed letter, Terrified. Can I call you “Terri?” Read More…