Parental Guilt

One thing they don’t warn you about when you first become a parent: the most prevalent emotion you will feel from day one is self doubt, and it never goes away.

Now, the media doesn’t help things.  On television, May sweeps are pretty much over, and I purposely did NOT watch the evening news, but I’ll guarantee you there were dozens of stories about everyday household items or activities that are “putting your family in danger!”  And don’t get me started about womens magazines

Throw in religion (will he rebel and become a heathen?) and politics (am I giving her the proper girl-empowering instruction?), and a parent will never be steady on his feet. 

And parenthood is one of the few jobs where other people feel quite free to tell you what a crappy job you’re doing.  From in-laws to complete strangers, from glares at Walmart to comments at church, EVERYBODY has an opinion on how you are raising your children.  And at any given time, someone will hold the opinion that you are ruining your kids forever. 

With all of this as a backdrop, I’m feeling a good amount of self-doubt right now.  My kids are 425 miles away, staying with my parents for two weeks.

Now, this is something we planned for a long time.   It’s the lemonade we’ve made out of the lemon facts that my kids rarely get to see their grandparents, and Lintilla used all of her time off for the year having surgery – meaning there would be no family vacation this year.  Yet, when we did the parentally responsible thing and signed forms to give my parents consent to seek medical treatment for the kids (just in case), it really made it, well, real.  For the next two weeks, the health and safety and well being of my kids is completely out of my hands.

Never mind that my parents successfully raised three boys, and have three other grown grandchildren they’ve had visit over the years.  I know those facts in my mind, but they have not yet registered in my heart.  I feel like the worst parent in the world.

I feel like the self-absorbed parents in On Golden Pond, who dumped off their son/stepson with the grandparents while they went to “find themselves”.

The facts on the ground are entirely different, but that’s how I feel.

Of course, when we called last night, Zaphod was all excited because my folks had let them have a water balloon fight in the backyard.  Water balloons.  Lintilla and I spend a fortune on electronic gizmos to keep our children entertained and engaged.  My folks spend a dollar fifty and our kids have the time of their lives.

Today, they are fishing.  And I’m sure that, unlike when I take them fishing, they’ll actually catch something.  Later in the week, they’ll go to museums (LOTS of military museums in that area of Florida), and eventually hit the beach.  They’ve also found a public pool, and I know Zaphod and Trillian will have a blast there.

When I think of it, my worry changes from one of them getting homesick to the probability that they WON’T get homesick.  Will they be upset when we bring them home in a couple of weeks?

As far as Lintilla and I?  We’re mostly cleaning (when we’re not working), but I have every intention of taking her on a bonafied grown up date this Friday or Saturday. 

Anyway, I don’t know if age 10 and 11 is the right age to allow them to do this sort of thing.  Lintilla and I have a tendency to just jump into things parentally, and hope that we are doing the right thing.

I’m pretty sure we are, but if not, I’m sure there are people who will feel free to let us know.


5 Responses to “Parental Guilt”

  1. nm Says:

    Slarti, take a deep breath. Now repeat after me, “I am a good-enough parent.” Again.

    Good grief. Every year of my life from the time I was 2 until I was into my teens, my parents would load me and my sister (later sisters) into the car, drive from St. Louis to NYC (before the interstates — looong trip) and distribute themselves and the children around 2 sets of in-laws’ 3-room apartments for a couple of weeks. Then my parents took off for a month-long conference where there were mysteriously no accomodations for children until we were older, leaving us to continue to be redistributed and re-redistributed for all that time, including the occasional week-long excursion when the grandparents would take their own vacation and take one lucky grandchild with them. We had the time of our lives, the grandparents had a blast, my parents got a break. Are your kids old enough? They’re old enough to be legitimately annoyed that this didn’t happen sooner.

  2. dolphin Says:

    In my experience, the parents who worry about what kind of job they are doing are the ones who don’t need to. It’s the one who just know they’re doing everything right (or worse, don’t care enough to think about it) who typically need help.

    And as far as old enough to spend a couple of weeks with grandparents… …you mean there’s supposed to be an age requirement for that sorta thing?

  3. nm Says:

    Well, Dolphin, I myself would draw the line at “after they are weaned.” I mean, really.

  4. Ford Prefect Says:

    First off I know how good your parenting skills are. I’ve watched you and the wife since the day those two kids came into your lives and you have nothing to worry about. The kids are ready for an extended time away when they are ready, it changes from kid to kid.
    A Quick story, little Lulu went for a week and a half vacation with my folks and sister a few months ago. The first couple of nights we got the sad voice on the phone and convinced ourselves that she was miserable and wanted to come home but that she was being a tough 12 year old and wouldn’t tell us. So in our great parenting wisdom we concocted a plan to drive 500 miles and “Suprise Her” knowing full well that she would want to come home with us. Well our check book started screaming and we had to re-think our plan, ultametly we stayed home and felt rotten over the fact that our little girl was 500 miles away and surely crying herself to sleep every night. When she finally got home we admited what we had been thinking and she was thrilled that we were worried enough to even think about doing what we were going to do. (Score big parent points!!!) then my wife had to ask the question. “Would you have wanted to come home with us if we had come out there?” The answer came with the sarcasm that only a 12 year old girl can muster. “Duh, NO!”
    I tell this story just to make the point that she was ready to move on to being away from us for a while, we were the ones that were not ready.
    Hang in there and enjoy the quiet!

  5. Susie Says:

    I think it is awesome that you are giving your parents this opportunity to have the kids all to themselves without you to run interference for them. They will learn lots about why you are they way you are, and I think will appreciate you more because of it. Some of my favorite memories when I was a kid was spending time with my grandparents in Memphis, which at the time you could only get to via a highway and no interstate so it took forever to get there…I would not change that for anything! Right now, with my kids as teens, I am SO ready to give them a break…Jess is headed to CA to spend 10 days with my brother and Derek is leaving for church camp. I will miss them, but I need the break! They will be back plenty soon enough…

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