So here’s the thing about columns; they tend to follow the same literary formula.
Usually, the writer has an idea or an opinion they want to impart to the reader. They’ll often present the idea using research to back it up.
The very good columnists will paint a picture with their words, perhaps framing the idea or opinion in such a way that the reader can identify with it, even if they don’t agree.
There are some columnists who are so exceptional, they can begin a column on a certain subject and lead it down back roads and side alleys before ending the piece where it originally began.
Taking the above into consideration while going over my body of work here at Parenting Times, I can legitimately say I am not a very good columnist.
There are very few columns in which I’ve offered a strongly reasoned opinion. Or a significant idea. My son’s mother says they mimic our relationship like that.
Instead, I try to sketch little moments I’ve enjoyed with my son that highlight how I’ve grown from reluctant parent into a loving, yet flawed, dad.
Some parents might see something in my columns they might identify with. Most won’t.
What I don’t do, however, is offer opinions on parenting. You see, I refuse to be a hypocrite.
Since becoming a dad, I’ve learned there are few things more frustrating and more unwelcome than other people’s uninvited thoughts on parenting.
The thing about other people’s opinions is they are based on what works for their own child. I learned early on what works for one kid might not work for another. It’s up to us as parents to use our intimate knowledge of our kids to find the best possible solution to a specific problem.
I’m certainly not opposed to asking for advice, of course, but I hate it when people just offer it of their volition.
So imagine my surprise early this summer when the people who normally hurl their uninvited advice suddenly clenched their lips when they found out my son was starting kindergarten. Each one said variations of two sentences.
“Good luck,” and “Don’t let him see you cry.” That was it.
The first was cryptic, like a warning from a horror movie, and the second was just downright bizarre. I wasn’t in the least concerned about his first day. I was excited, sure. But I’m not the type to bawl over it.
He didn’t seem too upset, either. The morning of his first day, he was a little sheepish when we got to the school. His mother and I could stay with him in the schoolyard until the bell rang. When it did, he calmly followed us to the gathering point.
He was fine. I was fine. The world was fine.
I bent down to hug him goodbye, and that’s when he lost it. He began to cry and said: “I want mah Daddy!”
The fear in his voice was brutal. I choked back tears as I pulled him off me, the hardest thing I ever had to do. I knew I couldn’t let him see me cry. He’d never go in.
As his classmates entered, he just kept looking at me, his face all red, his eyes all full of sad. My eyes burned. Tears threatened to fall. He stood in front of the door and sullenly waved goodbye.
I waved back and turned away. He called my name and without thinking, and without wiping the tears that had started to fall, I turned around. He saw my tears, smiled, and stuck his tongue out at me. Then he disappeared into his school without looking back.
So here’s the thing about parenting: there’s no prescribed formula for doing it right. So yeah, good luck.