A year or so ago, waiting in line at Costco with my kids, the woman behind me said, “You must be a good dad.” She said my kids were so well-behaved, it was clearly the sign of good parenting.
The funny part was, they weren’t exceptionally good that day. There was a minor tantrum earlier in the store, and there was a LOT of running around, even right there in line.
That she was compelled to say something about it made me take pause. Perhaps the scale I judge my kids on is a tough one. Maybe the behavior I expect is much better than whatever “average” is.
But I realize that our family’s “average” is all that matters.
My average includes: spending as much time with my kids as I can — helping with homework, treating to ice cream a little more than I should, playing dominoes while listening to Justin Bieber. (Judge if you want, but that’s what Lauren wanted that afternoon, so that’s what she got.)
Average also involves: a talking-to if they don’t say please or thank you, hollering when the house is a mess, and (hopefully infrequent) irrational outbursts which must make them ask, “What the heck is wrong with Dad?”
And average definitely includes plenty of grumpy moods, lazy days, and times when work or my iPhone (or both) takes priority.
“Average” is hardly “perfect.”
But average is what my kids know. It’s what I know to do for them. It’s what my wife does for them. And as I always try to remind myself, it needs to be the best we can do.
My revelation of late is to make my kids think that my best is only average.
Kids have very little frame of reference for parenting. They can’t possibly understand the sacrifices made or the effort involved to provide a good life.
And they shouldn’t.
They should expect that the way they are raised is the way every child is raised.
Someday, they’ll understand that’s not the case. Last week, our local paper documented one day in a courtroom where a judge heard cases for children in need of family services. The story is heartbreaking, with multiple stories of unimaginable horrors.
Still, for the kids involved, that kind of upbringing may be “average.”
In our house, I’m proud of the foundation we’ve set. Love and compassion are what lead us. We accept and acknowledge our bad moments or days, and they’re tolerable because we always know we have each other to turn to, to fall back on, to stand up for one another.
And what really inspires me is to think that when our kids become parents someday, perhaps they’ll up the “average.”