So much of parenting is about teaching our kids, whether directly or indirectly. It’s something you’re never NOT doing, and we all have wins and fails. There are the big things—respect, safety, responsibility, gratitude, kindness—and then the little things, like teaching them how to make a bed or tie their own shoes.
When my children were babies, I thought about the big things a lot. Was I a strong enough moral example? Was I instilling healthy eating habits and proper table manners? Was I raising thoughtful, kind people who would grow into likable, contributing members of society?
I still think about those things, because they matter. But as my kids got a bit older, I began to notice the small things more. More specifically (because I am a cheerful and totally well-adjusted person), I began to think about where I was most likely to fail. And oh man, now that I’ve really thought about it, there are so many things I’m terrible at—including things I should probably be able to teach my children. Why didn’t anyone warn me about this part of motherhood?! I knew about sleep deprivation and stretch marks, but I had no idea how much time I’d spend thinking about bicycles and the new math. God, I suck at a lot of stuff. Let’s review:
I can’t ride a bike. I mean, I could probably get on one and stay upright long enough to go from one end of my street to the other, but it would be awkward as hell and I’d be filled with anxiety about falling. Biking, for me, is not a natural feeling. I remember having a bike as a very young child, but I don’t think I owned one past the age of ten and I definitely don’t know what to do with one as an adult. As you can imagine, this does not make teaching my kids to ride a bike very easy. And what do I do when they figure it out, despite me? I’ll watch them ride off into the sunset while I stand alone on the front lawn. Way to be more capable than I am, kids! Sorry we can’t make better use of the family-friendly bike path behind our house.
Similarly, I cannot skate. I didn’t think this would be an issue in my adult life, but since my kids have hit elementary school, they’ve been invited to one skate party after another (is this really a thing?! It’s so Canadian it hurts). I always thought of skating as a “nice to know” vs. a “need to know” kind of skill, but apparently, it’s a big part of growing up. At least there’s the option of lessons for this one…but you know what? I’m not going to bother. My kids are in dance and swimming and sports already. They don’t need another scheduled event in their lives, and quite frankly, I don’t want to pay for it. We’re too cheap and lazy for hockey, and too unskilled for basic ice skating. Sorry again, kids—maybe your uncle will teach you one day.
What else? Well, I can’t ski or snowboard. I understand that this is fairly common—not “everyone” vacations at a ski resort. I definitely didn’t grow up doing that sort of thing. But the thing is, my husband is a really good snowboarder (*cough, privileged childhood, cough*), and my kids have been in lessons since they were toddlers. So the three of them can strap on a board and rip down a hill (in varying degrees of skill) while I just stand at the bottom with a latte clasped in my cold, stiff hands. I’m a great cheerleader, but I’m totally left out because of my lack of ability and experience. At least in this area, my kids have my husband to lean on for support. They win, but I’m still failing here.
(I’m beginning to realize that a lot of my failures are rooted in my total lack of athletic ability. I’ve always been ‘a reader’ and I’m paying for it now, in spades.)
Finally (except not really, because the list goes on forever), there’s math. Goddammit, MATH. When I was in school, math was terrible. And then math changed, and became more terrible, as far as I can tell. Or maybe it’s better, but because I’m more of an arts-type, it still makes no sense to me. Anyways, the homework years are approaching, and I expect to be useless to my children. I’ve already enrolled them in STEM camp for a week in the summer, and I guess those tutoring programs can parent for me if my kids need extra help. That’s really the best I can do.
There have definitely been some parenting wins on my end—cooking and baking, literacy, music and art, practical jokes—but there have and will be many fails to balance those out. I may eventually learn to ride a bike or master the basics of snowboarding, but math is never going to happen. It’s just not. I have an accountant, and I’m happy with my life choices. And I don’t even WANT to skate, honestly—I hate the cold as well as most group activities.
My kids will learn some things from me, some things from others, and sometimes, they’ll fail miserably. I guess as long as I teach them that failing sometimes is ok, they’ll do alright in this world. You can’t always win—that’s life. You refocus and move on. And If I can’t teach them that, I’ll just add it to the list of places I went wrong.