“How do I know if I’m doing a good job as a parent?”
That’s the million dollar question for parents isn’t it? We spend time, money and a never-ending amount of effort on every aspect of our kids’ lives. We either work harder to afford good schools, or give up careers to teach them ourselves. We care for them physically, attend to every emotional need, teach right from wrong, read to them, have them read to us, drill manners into them, etc. It doesn’t happen all at once, but a little every day. It’s constant. And the whole time you’re wondering if any of it is actually sinking in, and hoping like hell it is.
This weekend I got my answer thanks to two instances during our camping trip in Maine.
The first happened at the lake when Will caught a frog. He was so excited that he ran over to another boy about his age who he had never met before, so he could show him. Will walked over to the boy with the frog cupped carefully in his hand so as not to hurt it, and then put it down gingerly in the woods so it could go home to its frog family.
At that point the other little boy showed Will the minnows swimming around in the lake, which enthralled him. But his amazement soon turned to disgust when his new friend picked up some rocks and started throwing them in an attempt to hit the fish, then tried to enlist Will’s help in jumping on them to squish them yelling “DIE!” Will was horrified and told him you’re not supposed to hurt animals. That’s when the little sadistic terror (whose dad was wearing a Yankees hat — do the math!) started throwing even more rocks. Will quickly left and we went back to our campsite as the kid yelled “Good! They’re leaving!”
Once back at the site, Will made another animal discovery. This time he found his new friend stuck to the back of the fire pit. A snail — a big one at that — who was promptly named Snailey. It was getting dark and of course Will’s first question was whether Snailey could stay in the tent with us. Since MJ already has to deal with one slug, we said no. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised when the tears came. But I was surprised when he told me WHY he was crying.
“Dada, it’s getting dark & Snailey will be cold outside. Can I put a leaf over Snailey like a blanket so he’ll be warm?”
I know it’s just a snail. I know most kids love animals so I probably shouldn’t read too much into it. But this kid has so much empathy, compassion and kindness in him. He couldn’t bear the thought of a single snail being alone and without the comforts of home, so we grabbed a large leaf, took Snailey out of harm’s way, and fastened the leaf blanket around him as he slid off into the night. Will blew him a kiss and wished him well.
I’m not perfect and I make my share of parental mistakes. Will’s no angel and his fresh attitude is like looking into a mirror — a heavy dose of Karmic justice. But he’s also unfailingly polite and loving. He cares about others first and foremost and he’s ultra sensitive to how everyone around him feels. Granted, these positive traits come from his mother no doubt. But they’re proof that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing most of it right. Even if it is on the fly.
I’m just happy I didn’t have to build a snail log cabin. But I would’ve.