Every once in awhile I get a sincere email (or sometimes a sarcastic one) asking me how to be a good parent. I honestly have no clue. I don’t even really know what that means. Learning most things is so linear. You learn, practice, do. Not with kids. We don’t ask rocket scientists to build a rocket while simultaneously launching said rocket. They have years of school. They have simulations. And sometimes the rocket still explodes due to forces that may or may not be outside of their control.
So I don’t know how to reply to emails asking me how to be a good parent any more than I would know how to respond to someone asking me how to build a rocket.
That said, kids are arguably more durable and less likely to explode than rockets, and replying to emails about parenting with rocket metaphors probably just pisses people off. So here’s what I tell the backs of my eyelids when I find myself asking if I am being a good dad:
If you show up,
If you try,
If you try to be better,
If you listen with the intent of hearing,
If you talk with the intent of communicating,
If you teach instead of telling,
If you apologize to them when you fail,
If you fail and try again,
If you succeed and don’t use it as an excuse to rest,
If you rest when you need to rest,
If you can be weak when you need to be weak,
If you ask for help when you need help,
If you admit to your kids when you’re wrong,
If you tell them when they’re right,
If you speak with kindness,
If you tell them their questions are good,
If they see you defend others,
If they see you defend them,
If they know you love them,
If your love is your attention,
If you show up.
If you try…
you’ll probably be an OK dad.
I know there’s more that I am missing. I know my failures will only be clear when they are behind me. But this is what I have for now, so it will have to be enough. It helps me sleep, and it keeps me showing up.
And that’s all a parent can really ask for, enough confidence to keep trying and enough doubt to keep trying to be better.