A Real and Present Parent

I often beat myself up as a parent. I don’t have the patience, or I raise my voice. I don’t deal with a crisis in the best manner, and I do it in front of my children. I feed them something easy instead of something healthy. I feed them fast food twice in one week. I don’t want to read the same damn Barbie On Her Toes book four times in a row with Tiller. I would rather write or read than watch Charlie Brown with them. I criticize, instead of positively reinforcing. . . and on and on and on, the voices in my head knock me down notch by notch, until I feel like the worst parent in the world.

All this is to remind myself that I am NOT the worst parent in the world.

There is this boy on one of my kid’s sports teams. He has no mother. He has a guardian, who is a family member. Sometimes that family member brings him to practice. Sometimes another family member brings him. Almost always, they drop him off. He is young for the team, most of whom are 6 and under, but closer to 5 and 6. This kid is five at the most, maybe even four. He has tons of energy. He runs around the field, when he is supposed to be in a particular position. (Granted, they all have a little trouble with the concept of positions.) But this kid doesn’t listen to direction. He is nearly impossible to keep in line. I hate to say it, but he is a little like a feral animal, as compared to the other kids. The coaches are obviously frustrated by his disruptions.

Kids at this age have to pee. You ask them if they need to pee before practice or a game and they say no, and then sure enough, by the second inning, they are out on the field grabbing themselves like Michael Jackson and dancing from foot to foot. When this happens, the kids’ parents usually notice and take their kid to the bathroom. This particular kid? Other people have to take him to the bathroom because his guardians are never there. After practice or a game, all the other kids who have parents that sit there during the whole practice, pack up their stuff, and head for the cars. This kid is always the last one there, left waiting with a coach or parent searching for his guardian, or his uncle or whoever brought him that day.

People feel sorry for him, because they know his situation, but they also get annoyed. It is depressing to see this kid and his situation. Every time, it breaks my heart and pisses me off. Some stupid girl or woman brought this child into the world, then deserted him. I cannot reconcile the fact that there are people who can leave their baby to fend for itself in this world. It absolutely baffles me how one could live with themselves.

Sure, he has a family who picked up the slack, but they haven’t picked it up enough. Kids should have a parent who will teach them respect for their elders. They should know that someone loves them enough to sit around for an hour and shout a word of encouragement when they do something good. A kid should not have to rely on the kindness of strangers just to get to the bathroom.

A kid should never sit on the bottom step of a bleacher, with an adult they barely know, and have to wonder whether they will be picked up and when.

I have been thinking about this kid a lot this week. It has reminded me that all my criticism, and my overreaction, my yelling, and my nagging about manners, my forgetting sometimes to just have fun with my kids doesn’t mean I am a bad parent. It means that I am a real parent. A real and present parent.

I wish they could all have real parents.

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