"Just stop fidgeting!"
The words were out of my mouth for less than a second before a wave of guilt washed over me. In my days as a consultant I'd often be in the midst of a day full of interviews and meetings when I noticed my clients' eyes drifting towards my fingers, where my pen was spinning in circles between my fingers. My office desk is littered with pens, paperclips, stress balls... anything I can toss, spin, twirl or whirl in some way.
Of course my daughter is a fidgeter. She's MY daughter.
And the hypocrisy doesn't end at pen twirling. It seems the very habits in my daughter that drive me the most insane are the things she's picked up or inherited from me. Yelling when she's angry? Me. Talking nonstop? Me. Getting distracted mid sentence by another thought that enters her brain? Me.
It's enough to make me wonder how my wife tolerates me.
In every man's life, there comes a time when he must choose to speak out or to remain silent. Today, friends, is my time to speak.
I am but one man. One parent. One voice speaking out. A solitary voice speaking out amidst a deafening chorus that threatens to drown me out. That threatens to silence my song before it's heard by even one who may take heed and be spared the same fate that has befallen me time and time again. But speak I must, friends, for if I can save but one, then I know I have not spoken in vain.
Friends, the enemy walks among us. It lives in our homes. It stalks our playrooms and activity cupboards. It's in our schools. Our recreation centres. It is as much a part of the fabric of parental life as first steps and scraped knees.
I speak, of course, about Play-Doh.
Oh sure, on the surface it seems harmless. Beneficial, even. Our children play with it, they create with it. Our children present to us their colourful creations and we delight in the misshapen beauty their tiny hands have formed with as much passion and reverence as the people of Florence bestowed upon David, himself, as Michelangelo first wheeled him into the town square more than half a millennium ago.
But my friends, the colourful hues of this childhood staple mask a darkness that lies beneath. Because for every colourful creation and malleable blob of manifested childhood imagination, there are traces of forgotten Doh. Pea-sized remnants of abandoned potential, littering our floors and lining our tables. Laying in wait. Biding their time until a careless foot falls upon them, when their true nature is revealed.
Friends, I too have heard those who say that stepping on a Lego block is the purest form of agony that any parent will ever know. I've seen the memes. I've chortled at the humorous posts that aim to educate and arm parents against the threat. And while I grant that an errant foot landing on a colourful plastic building block is, indeed, something to avoid, the pain is orders of magnitude more tolerable than the 10,000-sun burning intensity that is the pain of stepping on a shard of hardened modelling clay.
The time has come. Battle lines must be drawn. We must drive this enemy out of home after home until there is no refuge and no rest. And we must pursue homes that provide aid or safe haven to this enemy. Every home, in every region, now has a decision to make.
Either you are with us or you are with Play-Doh.
I trust you will choose wisely. We shall overcome.
According to the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, I should be an expert parent more than three times over by now. I mean, I've immersed myself in this gig, man. Four years as a Dad and nary a night off and yet, here I sit, seemingly still as clueless as I was on day one.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how I've decided that my instincts suck, which renders almost useless the "trust your instincts" advice most other parents seem to fall back to offering up when you lament your parenting chops. My instincts usually end up in me yelling, escalating, and generally leaving my wife having to deal with two raging people. My instincts make things worse.
Now don't get me wrong, I have great instincts when it comes to things like making her laugh. I'm great at being a Dad when she's a happy, curious, and generally well-mannered kid. It's just the times that she's coming a bit unglued that my fall-backs fall apart. You know. When it actually matters.
So, in an attempt to make a change, I'm marking my kid's fourth birthday by trying to usher in an era of acceptance of my own limitations and shortcomings. I intend to embrace my incompetence and acknowledge that maybe there's a better way. I'll try to spot the signs that I, too, am coming unglued, and channel a good parent before I lose my cool.
Time to reset the clock, Mr. Gladwell. Only 9,999 hours and 58 minutes to go.