I didn’t realise the expectations I placed on myself as a parent until I was asked to book online movie tickets for my teenage daughter and her friends.
The request in itself was simple, “Dad, could you please book tickets for us before they sell out?” I’m pretty tech savvy, so just a few clicks and my daughter and her friends would have tickets to the opening weekend screening of ‘Avenger’s Infinity War.’
What should have taken a few minutes took ninety! First the online process took my money without giving me a ticket reference. Which, as the Ster-Kinekor assistant explained on the phone, was all because their site had crashed, because everyone (I mean everyone) was trying to get tickets for the movie.
Not to be defeated, I followed a second process of trying to purchase the tickets over the phone. Same system. Same result.
Now, before you think this is a subversive rant about purchasing tickets online, let me give you a sense of what was going through my mind at the time.
Early on in the process, before it all crashed, I was about to book the tickets, having confirmed the ‘right’ seats with my daughter who was out shopping with her mom, when I thought…
Don’t mess this up. Triple check the seats. The movie. The time. Before you press that ‘Buy Now’ button.
In that moment, I realised that I had expectations of myself as a parent.
I didn’t want to mess up for my daughter. I wanted to be the dad saying, ‘It’s all sorted. Got the tickets. Have a great time!’. For her to be proud of me. For me to be a good parent.
Can you relate?
Parents have to deal daily with fulfilling certain expectations. Some more basic and apparent than others. Here are a few:
To put a roof over their heads and food on their table. To get the next size clothing. Many South African parents struggle to fulfil this basic need for their children and have to go to great lengths to ensure their children are sheltered and have food in their stomachs.
I want my family to have enough. I don’t want my children to be without.
Covering monthly school fees and buying the next pair of hockey shoes is a constant challenge. As is homework, even when it’s clear we don’t do it that way anymore Dad!
I want my children to go to a good school and have what they need to explore their talents and interests.
They want to visit a friend and need a lift. They need to get something for a project. They have a sporting fixture and would like you to watch.
I want to be involved. I want to be present.
To share what Lara and I believe, and also for them to see the living of that belief in us.
I want to be a good example.
These expectations and many others, follow me around all day.
They sometimes keep me awake at night. They sometimes make me feel like I’m doing great. On the worst days, they make me feel like I’m not good enough and I’m messing up this child God has gifted to me and she’ll have to spend the rest of her life trying to get through and over all the mistakes I made with her.
So, I didn’t have the tickets.
As I told my daughter I waited for that response, not in words, but in her eyes. “Dad, my friends are all here and I said we’d get the tickets. You said, you would get it sorted.”
No parent willingly wants to let their child down. Even when it’s just tickets to a movie.
But it never happened.
She heard me out, called a friend who was now already there, and sorted in two minutes, what had become a mountain of growing parent shame.
A relieved goodbye later, alone with my thoughts, I realised a few things which may prove helpful for all parents to remember.
It’s good for children to see your effort. Effort goes a long way. Children are not looking for the perfect parent but one who is trying, who is making an effort. It’s easy with all that’s going on with our adult stuff to be around but absent. Be present and make an effort.
I have to accept that things are not in my control. Phew, that’s hard when you carry the responsibility of a child. Besides sites crashing. There are many things out of our control.
Choice of friends. Sports results. If the boy likes them or not. If they make the team.
And even that which is in our control, we’ll sometimes mess up.
You will say the wrong things. Have unfair outbursts of anger. Make incorrect judgement calls.
You are not all-wise, all-patient and all-knowing but there is one who is remember.
I wasn’t only responsible for creating this life and I’m not expected to be solely responsible for helping this life negotiate everyday life.
I want to be good at fathering (mothering) and I want my kids to believe that they were raised well.
But I have to accept that on most days, my best isn’t enough but that’s okay because I am not expected to have it all (or hold it all) together. I’m just expected to acknowledge my place and ask for God’s help.