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Onward

January 1, 2023

It has been a hard autumn on the parenting front. While the 16-year-old remains easygoing and helpful, the 4-year-old and 5-year-old seem to push everyone’s buttons daily, if not hourly.

The tykes’ capacity for sowing frustration was especially evident to me during the week before Christmas, when I was off of work and spending more time at home than usual. As it happened, I was also trying to write some sort of “hooray for our family!” song for my wife as a Christmas present. As of the start of the week, the first and last lines of the chorus were, “We’re a sappy happy chaos family!” After several days of metaphorical and literal stormy weather, those lines had become, “And still we push onward through the snow,” with a new melody and chords to match.

In earlier years I had been able to convert fatherly frustration into songs of optimism. Why wasn’t I up to the challenge this time? Was I getting too old to be an effective parent?

I thought back to when the 16-year-old was 4, and how he drove me crazy at the time. But eventually he turned 5 and then 6, and somewhere in there being a dad became OK again, and then better than OK. Presumably that will happen again with the current 4- and 5-year-olds.

As another Christmas fades out of sight, I’ve landed on the conclusion that, in the development of children, I am just not a fan of ages 3 to 6.

I don’t feel great about that conclusion; three years is a huge chunk of a child’s life. But of all the ideas that a downtrodden parent could cling to, this one seems especially useful right now, helping me maintain some patience and optimism amidst the daily indignities.

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