I Have No Idea How to be a Parent (And That’s Ok)

Some people are born with a superhuman parenting gene.  They just get how to be a parent.  Not me. I’m winging it, one hundred percent.


After Junior’s birth, I remember leaving the hospital as a newly minted parent thinking, “Wait! What am I supposed to do with him? I’ve never taken care of a baby before! I’m totally unprepared for this!”  I was a tense, twisted knot of nervous energy.  I was so paranoid that something terrible would happen.  That first night, every time Junior whimpered, cooed, moved, or breathed, I bolted awake and rushed to his bedside to ensure his wellbeing.  I must have checked his breathing two dozen times that night.  The next morning I was a complete mess.

While I have unwound my fatherly anxiety a little since that night, I still feel like a parenting amateur.  I just have no idea how to handle the curveballs my kids throw at me.  When Addy’s devastated because her socks aren’t sparkly, I don’t know what to do.  So I wing it.  I’ll say something like, “But Addy, princesses sometimes like striped socks instead.”  Sometimes it works, (“Oh, ok. I didn’t know that”) but usually I’m not that lucky (“THAT’S NOT TRUE DADDY!”).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love being a parent.  I do.  Being a dad is a blast because my kids are amazing.  They’re wild, spontaneous, full of energy, completely unfiltered, and entirely unpredictable.  That’s what makes them so darned fun.  Ironically though, those same attributes also make them incredibly difficult.  As hard as I try to work with them, I’m never really sure how they’ll react.  So, I’m reduced to shooting from the hip and hoping for the best.


When Junior was little, I had hope that I’d eventually figure out this whole parenting thing.  Maybe I could fake my way through with him and then number two would be so much easier.   You experienced parents out there are chuckling because you know what I didn’t: adding more kids never makes things easier because every kid is unique.

In our case, Addy is so different from Junior.  Sooooo different.  And it’s not just that she’s a girl and he’s a boy.  It’s everything.  It’s like they aren’t even the same species.  Sometimes it seems the only thing they have in common is the deep seeded belief that onions are poisonous.  Consequently, most of the parenting strategies I cultivated with Junior are completely useless with Addy.  They just don’t work.  So, here I am again, flying by the seat of my pants with nothing to fall back on.

Maybe by the third kid I’ll have acquired such a wealth of parenting experience that the toddler years will be a breeze.  But then I’ll have to face middle school and high school and college and dating and cell phones and sports and driving and a million other crazy things.  I’m not qualified to handle those things.  I don’t even know how to pay off my own credit card (seriously, I don’t; Sam always does it).  Yet, I’ll have to handle them.  I’m a dad, and that’s what dads do.


Even though I don’t possess the superhuman parenting gene, it’s ok because love makes up the difference.  The love I feel for my children is the most incredible, awe-inspiring emotion I’ve ever experienced.  It permeates every aspect of my life.  I love those kids completely, totally, and unconditionally.  I love their smiles, their laughs, their hugs and kisses, and the way they race to the door when I get home from work, screaming, “DADDY!”

Perhaps though, the thing that makes me love them the most is that they love me back.  They love me more than “a million Jupiters,” “a million ice creams,” and “a million Swedish fish.”  They love me even though I’m not the perfect dad (or, on some days, not even that great of a dad).

That everlasting bond of love more than makes up for my parental inadequacies.  No matter what troubles or obstacles my kids and I face as we traverse this life, we’ll always have love.  And on days when princesses only wear sparkly socks or when onions are discovered on dinner plates, it’s that love that gets us through.

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