Uncomfortable Truths About Parenting


Nine years ago, the bio read, “Chad successfully influences Dads to be a productive and involved parent. His encouraging yet challenging style is leading a movement to change the image of Dad from family dud to Family Leader.” As I read that now I wonder who the hell it’s talking about.

My last article published on The Good Men Project was July 9, 2013. I was an up-and-coming, moderately successful dad-blogger who found himself growing a relatively decent audience in an emerging niche. I had reached a point where my written voice and opinions were being shared across several platforms and publications. Brands were reaching out to me, sending toys to my home, or providing tickets to premier events to include them in my blog posts. Wrapped up in the attention, I believed there was a future in my writing. Along with having a story published in a book, I received invites to join podcasts and vlogs.

And then, I shut it all down.

Ego is a dangerous thing. It blinds you to what’s really important. I was oblivious to the most evident and essential people in my life. I focused on the attention given to me by others.

For the sake of my marriage and to keep my family whole, I erased it all with just a few clicks of the mouse. My blog, email, Twitter, and all social media were deleted. But, as we all know, you can never really delete anything from the internet.

After nine years, I’ve returned to writing. Interestingly enough, I discovered The Good Men Project on Medium. I quickly searched for my name on their website in a moment of nostalgia. There I was. Five published articles over six months.

In all sincerity and embarrassment, I had no business positioning myself as a voice to lead “a movement to change the image of Dad.” With five years of experience, I could teach someone how to properly change a diaper. I could share what worked for us to potty train our five and three-year-olds. And, the value of my opinion should have been limited to what the best episode of Yo-Gabba-Gabba was. Beyond that, I was clueless and had no idea what the next nine years had in store for me.

My five and three-year-olds are now teenagers, and without question, I’ve learned from more mistakes than I can count. Parenting is hard! There have been times I’ve thrown my hands up and declared I was done with it. And, if you haven’t been there, well, I suppose you’re not really trying.

I’ve learned some uncomfortable truths about being a parent in the last fifteen years. If my current grey-haired self could sit down with “ReWriting Dad,” this is the wisdom I would share:

How to Parent books should be filed under Fiction: Fantasy.

I’m not one to advocate burning books, but if there were one category that deserves to be heaved into the flames of a bonfire, it would be how to parent books. When my wife and I learned that we would be parents, we devoured books to ensure we were ready to be the best mom and dad ever.

After our first child was born, we kept up to date with each developmental stage by reading a new book. We took the words as gospel if the author had a Ph.D. and implemented every suggested strategy. In our minds, our children would, without a doubt, exhibit model behavior and thrive in any situation.

We would learn that there was no one-size-fits-all model to parenting. No sorcery within the bound pages of magical spells conjured by child psychologists turned author.

On more than one occasion, I’ve proclaimed in exasperation, “the book said to do it THIS WAY.” Or, “their behavior means I have to do it THAT WAY.” Often, however, my gut said to do it another. You can imagine the conflict that raged in my mind.

As well-meaning as the authors may have been when they set out on their journey to help parents, the ultimate goal is to make money by selling as many books as possible. With these books, they influence their audience to attend workshops that tell you what you didn’t learn is found in their next book, which can be purchased right outside in the lobby.

It’s a helluva business model. Interestingly, I’ve never met anyone who admits to buying these books or attending the workshops. Nevertheless, the authors pump out best sellers and quickly sell out their events. Are other parents lying?

I’d be remiss to say that there is no valuable information to be gleaned from the pages of testimony shared by the parenting experts. That said, it’s essential to remain flexible in your parenting style. Our children are not being raised in a vacuum. Everyone’s environment and circumstances are different, and a parent’s instincts have been a guiding force for many millennia. Let your intuition be your guide.

Yes! Other parents DO lie.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: your school-aged child has been misbehaving or perhaps is not putting any effort into their school work. You share your frustration with another parent, and they tell you, “oh, little Johnny would never…” and then proceed to tell you how spectacular their kid is.

They go on and on about how intellectual and brilliant Johnny is and how, even well underdeveloped and underage, the varsity coaches think he’s the most outstanding athlete they’ve ever seen. Blah, blah, blah.

You feel like a complete ass and failure, right? Why can’t my child be more like Johnny?

Pause. Take a breath.

You know little Johnny. He’s spent more time in your home than any child outside of your own. He’s told you how math class is really challenging, and he can’t seem to figure out “there, their, and they’re.” You were recently at the middle-school football game, and little Johnny wasn’t the star player. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even start the game.

Unfortunately, this truth-stretching ensures one maintains their Facebook and Instagram image. There is no room for vulnerability. No peeking behind the curtains. And, that’s okay.

Keep sharing your truth and your struggles.

One day, when the thin veil of keeping up with the Jones’s is torn, little Johnny’s parents will know there’s someone who understands.

This next one is not so much an uncomfortable truth but an encouragement. Simply put, it’s the bottom line truth about parenting.
Parenting is hard.

It’s hard to believe that anyone brings another life into the world intending to create an asshole. Sure, we witness specific behavior of both parents and children and make up our mind that they are a lost cause. Still, by and large, the fact is, becoming a parent is exciting… and scary as hell.

It can be argued that most of us have children with the best intentions. We have high hopes and expectations. A child is an opportunity to build a legacy, someone to be proud of.

Raising a child is not for the faint of heart.

Speaking of hearts, it will be broken.

Expectations will be missed. Hopes will be dashed. Dreams will become nightmares.

It happens.

But, and there’s always a but, don’t give up. You’ll want to on many occasions. You’ll question why you ever had children. Why can’t they just follow the rules. Why can’t they simply meet the bare minimum expectations?

Parenting is an emotional rollercoaster. As a father, I’ve been overjoyed and angry. I’ve cried tears of happiness and could have filled buckets with those of sadness. I’ve asked why a million times and have even declared that I have failed.

How could that be? I was an up-and-coming dad blogger influencing, encouraging, and challenging other dads. I was supposed to be the voice that rose above the noise, right!?

Can I share my uncomfortable truth before you go?

I have lived under a constant feeling of failure for at least six years. Being a dad has delivered blow after blow of repeated disappointment. My expectations for one of my children, in particular, have all but disappeared.

Most who know me and our family are shocked to hear of the struggles I’ve shared. From the outside looking in, we are a model family. Both of my children are always complimented on their manners. My oldest, in particular, has a unique ability as a teenager to engage and connect with older adults.

Manners and the soft skill of engagement are a cloak hiding the challenges we have behind closed doors.

Witness to hard work and achievement, there is no question my children have had great role models. My wife and I are both very determined, goal-setting high achievers. We both put forth the effort needed to provide a comfortable life and opportunities for them both.

It should also be known we are both heavily involved. There is no absence of support and cheerleading. And, it is only a very rare occasion that one of us has missed an event.

It’s been said that behavior is caught, not taught. If that were true, I would see the effort required to achieve above failing grades. I would not receive constant emails about assignments not being turned in. There would be no phone calls about school property being defaced.

I have failed.

And, I have failed before in other areas of my life. I have fallen but always get up. I have hit bottom and always pushed off to reach higher than before. But, I wonder if this feeling of failure will remain as a father.

My uncomfortable truth is not that I have experienced disappointment with my children. My uncomfortable truth is that I have expressed my disappointment and struggle not to throw in the towel and give up.

All I ever wanted was to be a dad. All I want now is to regain the hope that one day my children find the seeds of success we planted for them and that we did not sow them in a barren land.

I had no business being a dad blogger nine years ago. Maybe less today. But I’ve got some stories to share and still have encouragement to give.

The truth may sometimes be uncomfortable. But, having the courage to be uncomfortable and addressing the challenges helps us heal and continue moving forward.

Previously Published on medium

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