Top three moments when I felt I was failing as a father

No. 3 – I don’t love my kid’s birthday enough.

My wife and I have organized birthday parties for our children. Originally they consisted of invites, a few hand-blown balloons, some cake, ice cream and (maybe) potato chips at a park or the house. That was it.

And then came the Joneses.

When my daughter was three she received her first reciprocated invite. It was for a friend from daycare, turning 3. It was held at a family barn, which was refurbished as a dance hall. And it … was … fabulous. And intricate.

  • The party had a theme, with matching streamers, plates, napkins, cups, party hats, posters, noisemakers, crayons and helium balloons.
  • Every kid got a map for a scavenger hunt to find novelty items hidden outside around the barn.
  • There was a near banquet quantity of food, including vegetables, fruit, chips, burgers, hot dogs, sodas, juices and water.
  • The cake was adorned with theme-appropriate color and decour, and could feed a village.
  • Upon leaving every kid was given a goody bag – customized to theme – full of candy and trinkets.

Goody bag? Theme? That shindig was Outback Restaurant. The parties I had planned were In and Out Burger, as taken through the drive-thru in the rain paying with coinage and discovering too late the damn cashier forgot our fries.

No. 2 – When my son sounded like he was being brutally stabbed in public.

The kids and I are regulars at several local parks. We know all the equipment. And I know their routine – sandbox, slides, see-saws, then swings. I’m only needed for the swings. (Push me dad! Push me up to the moon!)

One day we went to one particular park and I was bushed. It was late in the day and a bit too warm for my comfort. I parked and told the kids, then 5 and 7, I would stay in the truck for a couple minutes. Be good. They exited. I lowered the windows for breeze and audible supervision. Then dropped the seat back and closed my eyes.

20 seconds. All the peace I got was about 20 seconds. Then.

DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDD! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDD!

It was my son. I could hear tears. I popped up and looked out the window. They were about 30 feet away, on the other side of the chain link fence. They had broken the routine of sandbox first to sprint to one of the toddler slides, one that was a short curvy tube. My daughter had jumped up on top of the tube just above the slide’s launch. My son attempted to follow, but couldn’t quite pull himself up. Instead he dangled, his feet roughly 3 inches off the platform but, to a 5-year-old whose chin was sandwiched by two arms precariously perched for dear life, it may as well have been 103.

My daughter was adding to the theatrics by yelling, “I’ll help you! I’ll help you!” She was grabbing his legs to try and lower him down. Her impact was to make him scream louder. It sounded like a mugging.

So before an audience of helicopter parents and properly supervised children, the nominee for Inattentive Dad of the Year left his nap spot, ran to the gate, opened it, and hustled to the slide. Screaming persisted throughout the duration of my grossly delayed reaction, both from my son (“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”) and me (“Leave your brother alone! I’m coming!”)

When I finally arrived, I easily picked my son up and placed him down on his feet. I then turned and let them both know in unflattering terms we were leaving the park RIGHT. NOW. I couldn’t bear the eyes of judgement. (Though I am grateful I was somehow denied a nomination for Scary Violent Dad of the Year. Tough competition, that).

It was weeks before I could bring myself to return to that park.

No. 1 – My 6-year-old son’s favorite movie right now is Disney Teen Beach movie.

I *have* failed. 😦

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