Jan 22, 2010

Lousy Dad

From Super Dad to Lousy Dad in one crashing forgotten birthday. Parental immortality is so temporary.

One of the many beautiful Waldorf traditions is the celebration of a child's birthday in the kindergarten. The teachers weave the story of the child's development and birth into a magical journey, culminating in "coming over the rainbow bridge" with one chosen angel. It sounds a bit flaky in writing, but you gotta be there, you'd have tears.

But over-busy me (yes, too busy) forgot until this morning to write up the details about Zekiah's arrival, so his sad teacher called me from school at 7:30 to say we would have to postpone the party. As I was breaking the news to Zekiah, she called back again to earnestly assure that she "holds no judgement" about it.

Bless her heart, she knows that we parents hold enough self-judgment that hers would be unnecessary. How on earth could my business launch, woodpile, writing, organizing the office, and cleaning the house for mom's visit have been more important than creating magic around my 6-year-old's celebration? We still haven't even sent out invitations for his party in 2 days (sound familiar?).

His teacher may be evolved enough to somehow suspend judgment, but I sure aint. It's inexcusable, it sucks. The only consolation is knowing that Zekiah is so resilient that he will adjust well to the new plan (he's already trumpeting about the 3 days he now gets to celebrate instead of 2), and the renewed resolve to use the next 2 days to create a great party on Sunday.

Sarah's Mama Renew classes rightly teach women to not judge themselves harshly, to accept that we're doing the best we can. And while it may be unhealthy and unproductive to sit wallowing in self-recrimination for the rest of this long morning when I should have been in magic birthland with my child, it would be dishonest to pretend that I was anywhere close to my best this week (ironically a week when I was trumpeting my powers in other blog posts).

So we beat ourselves up a little, vow to better, and move on. I look this lousy Dad moment straight in the eye, acknowledge and learn from it, and hope that somewhere beneath his sunny disposition these little failings don't plant seeds of sadness in my beautiful birthday boy. He deserves more than I gave him this week, and I deserve a little judgment.


  1. But the forgiveness of a child to a parent is easy when, for the most party, you are a trustworthy parent.

    And the judgement I reserve for you upon reading this post is: He's real.

    6 new mamas shared with me today how important it is to be real in their ability to accept their shortcomings.

    And I agree with them. While I appreciate your positive approach to blogging, sometimes a good ol' healthy dose of personal reality helps the message go further.

    Thanks. And happy birthday to the lucky guy who gets a 3 day birthday!!!


  2. Holy cow man. That's some serious guilt you're laying on yourself. Love reading your blog because it's so refreshing to hear a man's voice from the home. So, I guess it's appropriate that you're beating yourself up just like the ladies do.

    First, I might point out the statement of "holding no judgment" is judgment in itself. Interesting the teacher made a point of calling back to let you know she WASN'T judging. A phone call the day before would have been equal effort and yielded very different results. You get my drift.

    When a child is raised by parent(s) who are hard on themselves (even for small, daily failings) it comes across loud and clear to the child that it's not OK to screw up. Even when the parents are cheerleaders for their children and tell them it's OK to make mistakes. Children model what they see much more than what they hear.

    Finally, I'm a big fan of "birthday week" or even, "birthday month". This puts less emphasis/pressure on the actual day. Every person is special and should be celebrated for longer than one day each year. This goes for Dads and Moms too. :)

  3. I support the last commenter. Clearly Rick you are an awesome dad. By feeling guilty you are simply teaching your son how to feel guilty. Be happy - your son will be too (overly simplistic yes, but true to a great degree).

  4. Great one, Rick. Re the previous comments: I don't hear as much guilt as sadness and forgiveness. If we're not present as men to what we feel, we have no starting point from which to move on.

    Thanks for putting such clear words to an experience I know and thus increasing all our learning.