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Thread: Not the perfect Parent

  1. #1

    Not the perfect Parent

    I am a full time social worker which also requires me to be oncall, and am I still finishing college. By the time I get home I usually barely have enough energy to follow the routine with my daughter: practice a subject (the alphabet, or reading, counting, etc.) play for 5 minutes or less (and this is where my problem is) and then a bath and some evening meditation for 2-3 minutes where she has a different role every night (ie: ring the bell, recite the Heart Sutra, blow out the candles, etc..) and then our nightly reading and bedtime.

    The problem for me is the play time. She is 3 years old, and I am finding it increasingly more difficult to find the patience to play with her (this sounds horrible, I know!) but when I start playing with her, I feel like I should be doing something else like homework, house cleaning, etc. My wife is a stay at home Mom and needs the time I give her when I do my parenting share, but as time goes on for me I can't help feeling trapped by playtime.

    The weekends are even worse. I feel like I am constantly coming up with excuses not to play tea party or legos, or whatever, but even though I am aware of it - I can't seem to be like I was a few months ago- excited to come home and play with my daughter.

    My daughter is exceptionally patient with me and often reminds me "well, thats okay - we can play later." and then I feel REALLY guilty.

    How can get over this mental block? Has anyone else had periods like this?

  2. #2
    Tempus Fugit.

    or

    Let me respectfully remind you -
    Life and death are of supreme importance
    Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
    Take heed! Do not squander your life.

    Jundo recently mentioned that we are involved in trying to live and die gracefully. Now most everything I have really learned came the hard way. For instance, being 45 and the father of a two year old means that:

    a) I am really tired all the time.
    b) I've experienced how my time here is fleeting and someday I'll say goodbye.
    c) I've frittered and wasted too many hours before getting to this point.

    So let me share the parable of 1000 marbles by Jeff Davis:

    1000 Marbles
    A modern parable about Precious Time
    and appreciating life's finite nature

    -- By Jeffrey Davis

    The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

    I'm a Ham radio operator and spend some time working with radios and electronics. So when I heard this story it really made me think! I hope that you will find some application in your own life as well...

    A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

    I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles."

    I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."

    He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles."

    "You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."

    "Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

    "It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

    "So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to roundup 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."

    "I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

    "Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.

    This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

    "It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 75 year Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

    You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss.

    "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

    "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

    "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids.
    Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

    HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND... and may ALL of your Saturdays be special!

    -----

    Copyright, 1999, Jeffrey Davis
    Jeffrey Davis is, indeed, a ham radio operator and author of the book "1,000 Marbles"

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    dharma84,
    I have 2 sons (one is 2 the other is 4). I have a 6 day a week job and a wife in nursing school with no family near to help. I know how you feel. You feel how you feel so you shouldn't worry about the guilt.Every parent has had times where they just can't be "perfect". All you can do is the best you can do. I know for me, having some "me" time everyday (I choose to do zazen because it allows me to drop everything else ) helps a ton. I remind myself that they are little for such a short period of time and that the guilt, anger or whatever will pass. It also helps that Kids are incredibly forgiving.

    Louis,
    Good story!! I also came to fatherhood late in life (I'm 40). I keep telling my wife I plan on being senile when my kids get to be terrible teenagers.

    Ron

  4. #4
    Playtime was a problem for me. With my sons, instead of always playing what they want, I have begun introducing them to what I like to do as well. I enjoy cooking, and as young as two I have them in the kitchen with me "helping". When I am tired after work, instead of getting down on the floor and playing cars with my 2 year old, we might look online for a cool car site and I let him explain it to me and answer his questions.

    It isn't how you spend time with your child, just that you do spend time with her. Try introducing her to the things that you enjoy doing, and you may be surprised at how much fun you both have

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jen
    Playtime was a problem for me. With my sons, instead of always playing what they want, I have begun introducing them to what I like to do as well. I enjoy cooking, and as young as two I have them in the kitchen with me "helping". When I am tired after work, instead of getting down on the floor and playing cars with my 2 year old, we might look online for a cool car site and I let him explain it to me and answer his questions.

    It isn't how you spend time with your child, just that you do spend time with her. Try introducing her to the things that you enjoy doing, and you may be surprised at how much fun you both have
    I would like to second Jen's comments. While it is important to read to your kids and play some of their games, it is also important to model adult roles for them. To have them help and learn to be adults. Sometimes, I think we are so programmed into doing kid things, they never actually learn to be adults or interact with them.

    The time you spend listening to your daughter, no matter what you are doing, will never be misspent. If you forge this communication link now, it will be so much easier when she is a teen. And believe me, you will NEVER wish you WORKED more hours.

    Good luck, I know it is hard.

    Gassho,

    Linda

  6. #6
    Hi dharma84,

    Wow...I'm always amazed at the wisdom of our sangha members! I'd just like to echo, in particular, the last two bits from Jen and Linda.

    I was a working single mom of two boys from the time they were 2 and 4. They are now 28 and 26...and you have no idea how many times I catch myself beating myself up *still because I didn't get it perfect. So, A) drop any expectations of perfection here and now and forever more! For me, that is what haunts me...not what I did, but what I didn't live up to.

    B) What they said! In the end, your daughter really *doesn't care what you do with her, just that you do *something to help build communication, connection, communion with her. I taught my kids to do so many things in their lives by turning them into little games. Cooking, cleaning, washing their own clothes (well, that was helped along a *lot the first time I washed the red thing in with their white things and stuff turned all PINK! :shock: )

    And, the one thing I did almost every single night, was read to them. Three books...one for each child and one that mom picked. I never skipped that no matter what level of exhaustion I'd hit or how much work there was that needed to be done.

    Cut yourself heavy doses of slack. I'd say: strive to become a relaxed parent rather than a perfect one! Meditation will help you enormously in this quest!

    Be well...

    In Gassho!

    *Lynn

  7. #7
    All of the above is good advice I would say.
    I've got twin 3 year-old and a 5 year old, so I feel your guilt.

    Fake it till you make it.

    Seriously, just because you feel like you should be doing something else doesn't mean you have to act on those feelings if you know better. This sounds like a great mini-zazen opportunity. Stay there for your daughter in spite of your desire to be elsewhere. You will find, I think, that those feelings will extinguish themselves if you don't act on them. You will feel better and so will you wife and daughter.

    Good luck . . . may the force be with you

    Bill

  8. #8
    Thanks everyone for the really great advice. I will learn much from it I am sure.
    On being perfect, I should explain - it's not so much I have the idea that there is a perfect parent somewhere and I am not it; but just the constant thoughts of "I should be doing...." and when I am doing an activity we both enjoy like playing at the park, that thought isn't so loud. I think with experience, time and the advice given, those thoughts will be less and less.

    Thanks again, I really did appreciate this advice!

    Gassho

  9. #9
    Well...as they say.....

    ***SHOULD HAPPENS***

    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    In Gassho...
    *Lynn

  10. #10
    Cool story, Louis!

    ***SHOULD HAPPENS***
    :lol:

    I agree with what everyone has said here. Just take it easy, Dharma. Kids just like you to be around so they feel safe and loved. You don't have to do everything with them. They can play by themselves. Of course, later, they usually don't want you to be around. :lol:

  11. #11
    I have four kids, three still at home. My 5 year old daughter has a sensory disorder that makes it difficult for her to focus. BUT, she does REALLY well in her Martial Arts classes.
    When my injuries got bad, I had to stop studying the arts, (except for Tai Chi,) and got into Yoga. My kids, particularly the 5 year old, were facinated by it, and it holds her attention. That makes it something we can all do together. SO, now a few times a week, we pop in a tape and the whole bunch of us do yoga. (this is usually followed by a lot of rolling around and giggling.)
    She's also gotten into the habit of sitting with me. When she hears the bell, she comes in quietly, bows at me (not to me, at me... it looks sort of... violent?) and sits. She usually lasts about five minutes then leaves... not bad for a five year old who can't be still most of the time. I asked her once what she thinks about and she said, "I don't. Well, sometimes clouds."
    then, of course, we try to do game nights and whatever. But ANYTHING can be play.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Hi KvonNJ

    I have three boys, now 17, 15 and 13. I work as a Mediator, which means my hours can be long and unpredictable (e.g., on Monday of this week one Mediation ran so late that I wasn't home until midnight). My wife teaches on and researches the oceans and climate at our local university (she's to blame for global warming) and her work often takes her away on a research ship for up to ten weeks (the children call it her "holiday") so I go through spells as a lone parent, and did when the kids were much younger too (It's easier now they're older!). So I've also done the guilt / worry thing about not having enough time, or the right kind of time, for the kids.

    There's some really good advice on this thread, take it. Most of all, be kind to yourself, and have some time for yourself too. What your daughter most needs is a happy you.

    I comfort myself with Charles Dickens' observation that "Most children, despite their parents' efforts, do, never the less, grow up".

    Gaassho

    Martin

  13. #13
    Man, some really wise parents here!

    As a 40 year-old father of 2 boys (1 and 4), I have experienced much of the same stuff. For example, I sometimes don't read to my boys everyday (even while, as an elementary school teacher, advising parents to do it!).

    But to echo what has already been said, I find one of the absolutely vital things to do is to truly listen to your children and express your love for them. If you can do that everyday, you're doing a damn good job!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    As a 40 year-old father of 2 boys (1 and 4), I have experienced much of the same stuff. For example, I sometimes don't read to my boys everyday (even while, as an elementary school teacher, advising parents to do it!).
    Wow, what a great example of the Precepts. Do your best, reach for the ideal, while at the same time, recognizing that even your attempts are perfect in themselves and there is nothing to attain.

    Skye

  15. #15
    I haven't met a parent who hasn't felt this kind of thing. I'm parent of one and stepparent of another. Sometimes coming up with inane things for dollies to say is mind-numbing, and I do a supremely shitty job of it. Sometimes I'm grumpy. Sometimes I'd rather be coding. Sometimes I feel guilty for all that stuff.

    S'pose it doesn't make it any easier to say it comes with the territory and you're not alone, but it comes with the territory and you're not alone.

    The fact that you're worrying so much about setting aside enough together time with your daughter is probably evidence that you're a good parent. A poor parent might not think about it at all.

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