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We were sitting at the table the other night eating supper when my son blurts out, “My friends and I were talking about sex today.” He’s eight…third grade. I looked at my wife, then looked at him, and said, “What do you know about sex.” “I know there’s a naked boy and a naked girl and they get on top of each other.” I’ll admit, I almost laughed. To hear an eight year old begin to describe sex in such mechanical terms – I barely held it together. “What else do you know?” I asked. “That’s all I got,” he replied. “Good,” I said back to him, “that’s not for you to worry about. That’s for moms and dads.” With that the conversation turned to superhoeros and birthday parties. The next day I was talking to a buddy of mine who has a kid in the same class. They had the same conversation, only this dad went further – he had the talk. As he told me about having the talk with his son, all thought about my response, or lack thereof. Was I wrong to change the subject? Am I wrong to think that my third grader doesn’t need to be thinking about sex? “Good,” I told my friend, “now your kid can tell my kid how it’s done.”
Last night, just as I was going to win big parent points by taking my kids to Pizza Hut for stuffed crust pizza, my 5 year old daughter opened the door and let a stray cat in our house. As I loudly asked my daughter what she was doing, the cat took off. Gone… nowhere to be found. After a search we found it, hunkered down under our bed, hissing and growling. I was ticked and irritated – how was I going to get this angry cat out from under the bed? I had super parenting to do and this cat was messing things up. So I took out my frustration on my five year old. “Why did you let this cat in the house?” I said angrily. Of course she cried… ran upstairs to her room. Super parent defeated. After a parental apology we finally got the cat out, ate loads of stuffed crust pizza, and my five year old daughter fell asleep in my lap watching Cinderella. Balance in the parental world somewhat restored.
I wish parenting came with a manual – most of the time I feel anxiety and guilt about what I’m not doing. When I’m away from my kids I miss them, and resolve to be the best parent ever, then when we’re back together… I find my patience isn’t quite where I thought it would be. It doesn’t help that I live among a hoard of super parents – putting to shame all my feeble attempts to not mess everything up. Yet, even with all my parental insecurities I’ve found that kids are the embodiment of love and grace. I usually apologize to my kids for being an “ogre” – the Shrek of the parenting world…a big, hairy, Swede with the temper of the Norse gods. They always respond with a hug, and an “I love you dad.” Love I often don’t deserve, but a love that I thank God for every day.