In my thirty year tenure on this rock, I’ve done a lot of things for both work and pleasure. I’ve actively sought out new experiences and challenges. Its how I ended up volunteering for the fire department, driving for the ambulance, and trying to get into my new field of work. Every one of them has been a challenge on some level.
With challenges inevitably come the doubts. I remember in fire school running through some of our final evolutions and wondering “Can I even do this?” On my first day of training for the new job, I repeatedly wondered “What the hell am I doing here?” – especially as I watched other, younger people wash out before the day was through.
But of all the things I’ve done and tried where I’ve briefly encountered the beast that is self-doubt, none of them compare to fathering.
I am constantly second-guessing myself over most interactions I have with the boys, especially when one of them does something wrong. I constantly walk away from disciplinary actions with the question “Did I do that right?” burning in my brain. Even something as simple as making dinner for them “Did they have this the other day? Is it enough? Does he even like this today?”
When I watch my wife parent, she handles situations with the same stoic professionalism that I see on the salty old hands with the fire department as they prep a pumper for drafting water. Cold, wind, rain, snow, they know what they’re doing, and can get the job done in a few moments while the rookies are still bumping into each other hauling hand lines off the truck. I see the same thing when the wife does what she does. Me? I can’t help but feel like the rookie all over again. Aside from play-time and when I’m goofing off with the boys, I’ve got that bumbling and cumbersome approach to doing it. There have been a few times where I’ve handled bed time for both of the boys or have been alone with them while the Mrs. has gone out to accomplish some errand or another. She’ll look at me and ask “You got this?” before she goes out the door. Its not a question she asks because she thinks I can’t do it, but because she know I think I might have a hard time with it.
On numerous occasions I have lost patience, as all parents will, and have spent a long time wondering what the ramifications will be of such a blow-out. I’ve been deathly afraid of screwing something up as a parent since the day we decided to have child #1. One of the lessons I learned as we delved into the realm of people-raising is that they’re not as fragile as I thought. While I might feel like a total jerk for losing my temper today, tomorrow they’ll still climb in my lap with a book or attack me without warning as I sit on the floor.
Maybe the self-doubt is an indication that I’m NOT screwing up. I’ve learned in life that the more often you walk away from any situation with the “Yep, nailed it!” attitude, the more apt you are to have bawled something up. (Job interviews come to mind.) Maybe as long as I continue to question, doubt, and ultimately evaluate myself, I won’t end up so bad.
….at least I can tell myself that to keep from going completely insane.
Maybe. I still think I’m screwing it up almost completely.