I am probably not the best parent in the world. I am definitely not the best parent in my house. I normally think of myself first, my wife second, and then there are these small people with these endless needs and demands that normally don’t fit neatly into my ideal plans on how to spend my day. I am currently working on being less self-centered, but it is hard to do since everywhere I go, I find myself tagging along. I am hard to shake. Not only am I hard to shake, but I’m also a little bit lazy.
This is problematic in that when the kids are too lazy to clean their room, I am frustrated because I am also too lazy to clean their room. There are those who will (and if they are reading, already have in their minds) retort that a good parent doesn’t clean the kid’s room because they need to learn to do it themselves. I make no claims at being a good parent and find myself in a pickle because teaching a kid to clean their room is much harder than simply cleaning it myself, and as stated before, I am too lazy to clean their room.
With this as context, I was sitting in the living room reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol II, when my six year old looked up from her note pad and asked, “Dad, what are these things called?” pointing to the door hinges. “Those are called hinges.” She went back to the couch and her note pad, then asked, “How do you spell hinges?” I answered appropriately.
She presented to me a drawing, plans really, of a house, complete with directions of where each “nale” should be placed and instructions on putting h-i-n-g-e-z on one side of the door. I was impressed with her level of forethought and terrified, not by the thought of saying no to this child, I’m good at that, but rather terrified at the amount of work building a house would take.
“Uhhhh, we already live in a house.”
“No Dad. Like a small one. Like maybe this big,” she said holding her hand about four inches above her head.
A child willing to do something I was unwilling to do is hard to turn down. Maybe I was enticed by the possibilities this principle might introduce, like maybe I say no to doing my taxes and she offers to do them for me. Paying bills? Going to my job? This had possibilities. “Sure you can build a house, but it’s going to take some planning. Where is this house going to live?”
“The courtyard out back looks very nice. What if I don’t want to look at your house? We are renting our house, what if we move? How will your house fit through the door when we want to move it? Nails don’t come apart.”
She bit the back of her pencil and looked up at the ceiling. She didn’t have an answer. This was perfect, because I am not only lazy, but I am also a know it all. “What if you use hinges instead of nails? The whole thing can fold up like Ikea. Go re-draw those plans.” She re-drew the plans.
Were I to write a book on being a great parent, which would be fiction, I would recount all the events that followed. Not only did I allow my child to pursue her dreams but I let her use a power saw in the process. My theory on fatherhood is that if you are lucky enough to get a good kid, don’t mess them up. This is best done by getting out of the way. If getting out of their way takes effort, like getting off the couch, then by all means let the child get themselves out of the way by building their own house out back. This is what I did. Rather, this is what she did.