I recall being pregnant with Sascha. Going through the whole surrogacy journey was taxing enough, but there was this time, during the second trimester, when I panicked: would I ever be a good father to our son, or would I be a complete and utter failure? Eventually, that fear passed, and I relaxed into the “is this baby coming or not” phase (which was the worst one).
Yet, ever since our son was born, I wonder if I’m a good parent, a good dad. And I don’t mean it in the sense of being one of those macho dads who takes his son hunting or fishing or what not, but in the sense of, will I be able to provide my child with the best possible start in life?
I doubt I’ll ever have the answer to that question – at least not a definitive one. But I think about it, daily. As gay parents, we are so much more in society’s spotlight than any other parents. “They” can screw up, and no one notices; let social services clean up the mess. If we screw up, it’s all over the news. And no statistics or research, such as the large Australian study published a few days ago, is going to change this anytime soon. We are under society’s microscope, at least for now.
We’ve had our fair share of mothers give us advice on how to do things (and what not to do). For example, this one lady was upset when Sascha and I picked up his pappa (my hubby) at the ferry last summer, impromptu, and therefore not dressed warmly enough in her opinion. These things sting at first, but then we file them in the big round archive labeled “BS” and move on.
With my own shortcomings, it’s not quite as easy to just move on. Plus, they’re not seen publicly – unless I write about them here (silly me).
When my own dad compliments me for being such a great father – much better than he ever was – I cringe. When he mentions my amazing patience, I think, “If only you knew…” When daycare tells us what a happy child our son is, I wonder why he’s crying at home then.
Don’t get me wrong. I know the rational answers to all those questions. I know why children cry. I know why they throw fits. I know why they do things adults think are absolutely bonkers, like wanting to jump overboard our ferry on the way home from daycare…at fifteen months, it’s the sort of thing you’d wanna try. I get all that. There is just this odd disconnect between my brain and my heart.
Why do I get upset, angry, and yell (it’s happened, I’m not proud) at him when he keeps pulling dirt out of potted plants, or when he’s eating cat food for the umpteenth time, or when he’s otherwise behaving in ways non-conforming to adult expectations?
Can I really blame my son for wanting to find out what’s so great about that white cup that daddy drinks from constantly from dawn to dusk? (Coffee, in case you wonder – I’m a writer, I convert caffeine into words.) Can I blame him for grabbing said cup and spilling its contents – more than once? I’m at fault for not keeping it out of his ever-increasing reach. He’s just curious and learning. Yet, I get upset with him.
This is hard to explain to non-parents, but I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. Our children – as sweet, cute, and innocent as they may be – all have this uncanny ability to push our buttons. And I know those buttons change as they grow older. I used to get awfully upset when Sascha wouldn’t stop crying, when he was just a couple months old. There were even a few instances when I had to ask my husband to take over so I wouldn’t lose it. I felt so ashamed seconds later. And I still do every time I fail.
I wonder, will he resent me for it? Am I failing him as a dad for removing him from the cat food and putting him to play in his room? He cries for a while, but when I come back a couple of minutes later, we’ve both cooled off. He smiles and hugs me, and we play again. All is well, but in my heart, I wonder, if somewhere, deep within him, these failures on my part are adding up to some really big emotional or psychological damage.
Can I be a good parent if I get angry with my son? My brain tells me one thing, but my heart another. What’s your take? How do you handle your shortcomings? And don’t tell me I’m the only one who has them…because that would really be a downer for my self-esteem.