A dad has started a campaign to put netting along the first and third baselines in baseball, a constant stream of motivational slogans that, “mom[or dad, but usually moms] CAN have it all”, and articles entitled, “Take some time alone for the sake of the children” weigh on my prefrontal cortex lately. I think maybe America is a country of entitled parents who are indulgent and selfish and maybe, as a former early childhood instructor of mine pointed out, we don’t really believe children are our future and put them first.
When I was working in childcare or even when I taught public primary school, I always believed that when a couple decides to have a baby [or even when you have sex with someone (in case you weren’t aware, that’s how babies are made)], you have set into motion the mindset that you now come second – including your relationship. I think maybe that’s why it is especially difficult for unplanned teen pregnancy to be successful for everyone involved; the teen is still in the adolescent egocentric stage of development so how can he and/or she take care of someone that needs full attention? But adults? What’s the excuse?
The father who wants netting placed along the baselines in baseball. For one thing, if you are too ignorant about live baseball that you don’t know sitting along the baselines puts you in a direct line of fire with rapid foul balls – why are you at the game? Aside from that, I share the sentiment, veiled as it was in the article, of the author, the lawsuit bringing father wants netting along the baselines because, “Damn it, if I want seats along the baseline close enough to the players to see ‘if they shaved that day’, then by God I am entitled to them.” Well, I have another perspective – when my son(s) and I go to a baseball game, I will sit in the outfield or in the upper decks where the foul balls are LESS likely to come at me going 100 miles per hour. It may not give me the perspective of the game I want as an entitled American but my boys get to see baseball and Might still get a foul ball or better yet, homerun ball without the threat of my son getting hit and losing consciousness. When I was single or even when I was dating, I would sit as close as possible – because I am an adult and responsible for the decisions I make. But when I am the decision -maker for my sons, their safety comes before my indulgence. We want to have sports cars and complain they aren’t big enough for the car seat. We want to watch R-rated and take our toddlers along and rationalize it by saying, they’ll hear this language/content/reality anyway so at least this way I am with them. When my older brother had his first son, he took all of the hard rap and heavy metal CDs out of his car because he didn’t want to expose his son to that music. That’s a good approach I think – parenting is about sacrifice and there is no end to that sacrifice.
Hang onto your seats for this next one – no you CAN’T have it all. You can’t have couples only vacations to Hedonism II. You can’t work 60 hours a week AND know everything about your young children. It takes time and sacrifice. If I wasn’t there for the first steps of my boys or the first time my boys rolled over – it was probably because I was looking at something else at the time – not because I was investing another 20 hours at the office. Recent research echoes the findings of most families in the 70s, families that eat together are generally closer and the children are happier, more successful and have more positive feelings toward life. I think that might be why there is so much cognitive dissonance on this issue. If something “felt right” then life coaches, self-help authors and humanistic psychologists wouldn’t have to spend so much time convincing people that it is okay to be selfish – when it comes to our children, it isn’t. I don’t believe it feels wrong or we feel conflicted because we have been socialized to feel a certain way. By that logic, I should be just fine working all day and coming home to my wife and children just long enough to eat, talk a bit and go to bed – but I’m not. It doesn’t feel right for my wife and I to be gone all the time – I work enough to pay bills and sometimes get nice things and maybe someday I will make enough [or Sara will] for my wife and I to take a real honeymoon – but for now, we need time with our children and each other, together.
My third point is this, from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, even if my wife and I took a night off from children – they would still be the only thing we talked about. They are our lives. If we try to escape that for some reason, it would still come back to them. Even if we discuss our conflicts – it would be in the context of making the home brighter and happier for…? Our children, of course! That isn’t a bad thing moms and dads – it’s okay that the most important mission in your life is working together to guide your children to becoming the best adults they can become. I think date nights are fun but the couple that should be going on a date is my son and my wife, or me and my son, time alone when they are the singular focus and we are doing something together. Liam, my older boy, is 4 and I am certain is conscious of the amount of time and attention his 5-month old brother, Oliver, receives from Sara and me. It is important for us to spend time with him alone so he gets the time and attention a preschooler needs and it’s a good time to learn more about him. I spent two years learning about Sara, and almost four together before Liam came along – I know her and she knows me. It’s our children that we need to learn about by sharing time and having fun. That will fill the lives of Sara and me with lots of stuff to talk about when we sit together and the boys are sleeping. John Dewey once wrote that, “Education is not preparation for life, it IS life.” Parenthood is life – and I’m just fine with that.
Finally, not everyone will agree – until it is too late and they have children who have grown and left the nest or, Heaven forbid, they lose their child prematurely. Then they might say, “Gee, I wish I would have spent more time at home and not at work.” I won’t – I hope my boys will say, “Man, my mom and dad come to everything.”