The other night, I was hassling my young son to get his homework done, when all he really wanted to do was watch TV. "You can do your work first," I said, mustering up the fake stern parenting voice that I hope the kids don't yet realize is fake, "or you can go to bed!"
Holy cow, when did I become my parents?
This was a small miscalculation on my part. Being my son, he of course chose bed ("Fine!!") grumbling and stomping all the way and slamming the door hard enough to rattle the neighbors' neighbors' china, as an exclamation point. There are a good many slammings of the children's doors these days, often to the tune of the familiar refrain, "You're not fair! You don't love me!"
I imagine most parents get familiar with that line, especially as those teenage years begin to arrive.
"You're not fair! You don't love me!"
They're half right. I'm not fair... never even claimed to be.
But love? If only they knew.
Erma Bombeck once write a fine story, called "I loved you enough..." about how she would wait until her children grew up to try to explain a parent's logic to them. It's not a bad idea.
Where would we start, parents? What would we tell them?
I loved you enough to fuss endlessly over whether your homework was done, even when the best TV shows were on. I wanted to see it done so bad, you would think it was a peace plan for the middle east. I was - and I say this with some pride - a royal pain in your butt.
I loved you enough to let you struggle, fail, lose, wipe out, fight and make mistakes sometimes. I tried to be there to pick you up, though you only noticed that I let you fall.
I loved you enough to pester you about who's house you would be at, who else was going to be there (remember good old opposite sex rule #1), what time you were going to bed, and whether some reliable parent would be in earshot. Every darned time, until you were sick of hearing it.
I loved her enough that when my daughter was 3, I made her go back into a store and admit that she had walked out with a little eraser in the shape of a dolphin. She cried then, but she's honest.
I loved them enough that the cool PlayStation got turned off in the middle of a game and that boring football gets thrown outside instead and that boring old volleyball gets bumped around the backyard. It's a Fresh Air Thing. They teach it to us in Dad School.
I loved my son enough that he had to say "nice game" to the opposing team afterward in any and every sport and mean it just the same whether he won by a bunch or lost by a bunch. And didn't understand why at the time.
I loved my daughter enough that I didn't let her drive in the dark, even though that new permit said she could.
I loved you enough to try to let you be who you are, and not who I thought you should be. I'm still working on that one; be patient with me.
I loved you enough that you got punished if the group made fun of someone less fortunate, and you just watched. But you learned to speak your mind when you know you're in the right.
I loved you enough that at every opportunity, I worked in something about why drugs are wrong, why racism is stupid, why violence is seldom the answer, and on and on until you could sense a lecture coming. Even though I knew you were smart enough to know already.
I loved you enough to make you buy that thing you just had to have with your own money. You thought I was cheap. Well I am, but there's a lesson there, too.
I loved you enough that I didn't let on that I recognized mom's writing on the birthday cards you supposedly gave me but were too busy.
I loved you enough that even a good grade wasn't good enough if it wasn't your best effort. And if you gave your best, I didn't need grades to be proud. I bet that seemed like contradiction.
I loved you enough to let you find out on your own that one or two of the people you thought were your friends were really just goofs or creeps.
I loved you enough to make you clean your own room, complaining loudly about it through an entire weekend, though I could have done it myself in 10 quiet minutes.
I loved you enough never to blame a sports official or question a coach during any of your games, even when you thought the call wasn't fair. You probably thought I didn't care.
I loved you enough to veto the music with the parent advisory sticker on it - you know, the one that "everybody's dad lets them have." And if ever I meet this Everyone's Dad guy that crops up so often in conversation, I will give him a piece of my mind.
I loved you enough to send you to your room for using language that you thought wasn't so bad. But you learned how to speak without it.
I loved you enough to go to conferences and invite your teachers to find some even harder work to challenge you. You should have seen your faces when you found that out. Heh.
I loved you enough to say that four pizzas does not equal the four food groups, and to require that many a milk glass be drained, and to ban Mountain Dew, all to your chagrin.
I loved you enough to say no - often and repeatedly, and sometimes I laid awake at night wondering if it was the right thing to do in a particular situation.
I loved you enough to admit that I've made mistakes. I'm learning right along side you.
Did you know that I checked on you after you fell asleep mad at me that other night? Tucked in the blanket, made sure no bad dreams were going on, gave you a quick hug and a "sorry?"
I loved you that much.