Are you a bad parent? Probably not

Marc Lalonde
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There is no class in school that prepares you for family life – and no manual, either


I'm just getting the hang of this parenting business. Eight years , almost, to the day, after starting in the job. Our daughter will be eight on Jan. 30, which has been more than enough time to let her start to grow into her personality. I remember the day she was born – I was walking down the street to the pharmacy to get some medicine for my wife, when I looked upon girl after girl after girl and wondered which one Gabrielle would grow up to be like.

The reality is that she has grown up to be like herself, with her own likes, dislikes, personality and interests. Who knew?

Well, other parents, to be sure. But that's the funny thing about now being responsible for someone utterly and completely helpless is that it doesn't flip some switch inside you where all of a sudden, the parent is magically imbued with the ability to cure boo-boos with a single kiss, the ability to find matching pairs of mitts or gloves in seconds, or the ability to suddenly re-wire your whole life around a tiny thing that doesn't do much except yell at you for the first few weeks.

What it does is help many parents adjust to a slower pace of life – which seems counterintuitive, considering the fast-paced, breakneck speed of the world around us. It seems as though you never stop going from place to place without racing against the clock – but that will change for the first few years of parenthood. It did for me. I remember times when the time seemed to move backwards on the clock when my daughter was an infant – especially when it was too cold to go out the first few weeks after she was born.

After a few years of quiet time, your sprout will start participating in activities, much as we did. Maybe it'll be a swim n' gym class, or some similar activity, but that's where it starts. Pretty soon, a half-decade has flown by and your kid will now have a more active social life than you have. My advice? Let it go. You'll feel less overwhelmed by everything else and you start to realize that your desires often jibe with those of your family's, where once they were contradictory.

Embrace your newly-boring self. At our house, an exciting evening entails putting the kids to bed early and watching a movie with killing or swearing in it – or both! Woo-hoo! --  on Netflix before falling asleep on the couch. Weekends are for kids' sports, grocery shopping, laundry and relaxing. Got a habit of going out late on Friday and sleeping in on Saturday? Great! Just don't have kids, because oh, boy, are you going to be disappointed with your weekends.

We have a friend with two young kids – roughly the same age as ours' – who plays in a band, and one weekend of every month stays up late playing at a downtown Montreal watering hole, bringing himself to dig his poor, carcass out of bed at a kid-friendly hour the next day, which sucks, because unless you are a serious morning person, kid-friendly hours on the weekend are the worst.

Seriously, my kids get up before first light on the weekends these days. That's not right.

The upshot of all this discussion is that no matter how much you think you know what parenting will be like for you, you have no idea. Not to demean those who think they know what they’re getting into, but the frazzled looks on new parents' faces makes me want to give them a hug. It will get better, I want to tell them, but only after you've screwed up hundreds of times first.

There's no secret handbook to raising kids, but if I were to write one, this is how the opening would go. Try to lose yourself in being a parent for a while. Be completely immersed in what it means to be completely responsible at all times. Then, and only then, will you be able to appreciate the world around you for what it is – a magical place filled with possibilities that you hadn't really appreciated before children came along.

It doesn't happen overnight; it didn't for me, and lord knows I'm far from the only one. Instead of worrying about what you're doing wrong, worry about what you’re doing right – and how to do more of it.

Organizations: Netflix

Geographic location: Montreal

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