The Parent Trap: Good has to be good enough

It is now two weeks past my 16th Father’s Day, and despite positive comments by many people (including my mother), I often wonder how good of a father I really have become. My parenting skills were certainly put to the test when school ended, in the two weeks before the beginning of camp.

Count me among the growing number of people in America who now find themselves without steady employment. The business where I worked faithfully for 19 years closed its doors in December. Since then, I have been attempting to develop a freelance career, with continuing hope for future success.

So I work from my home in the Far Northeast. Of course, somebody had to come up with a better name for working from home, and invented the term “telecommuting.” In the winter and spring months, there was nobody at the home during the day but me and my cat. It was peaceful, and quite frankly, not a bad way to go about your work.

That changed when school ended. Two teenagers in a house, no matter how well air conditioned, is a recipe for tension. I can’t complain too much – my kids are pretty well behaved – but they really are different, beyond the obvious gender issues.

If a living could be made by sitting in a small room with a computer and testing out various transportation systems, my son would become a millionaire. My daughter, on the other hand, needs people. She cannot stand being alone, a trait that she does not get from her father. Put them in a finished basement, and all you have to do is sit back and wait for the fireworks to begin.

I do not handle conflict between my children well. In other matters, I’ve always been able to keep my emotions on an even keel, but their arguing increases my apprehension. My temper escalates, usually culminating in my rushing down the steps and issuing an edict. The punishments vary: a. Going to their respective rooms. b. Apologies c. Losing favorite shows. d. Loss of computer time The favorite shows punishment works well with my daughter, who considers a day without Hanna Montana to be a prison sentence. The boy is tougher. Sending him to his room is sometimes looked upon as a reward. Since he usually is the one who escalates the arguments, he spends a lot of time apologizing and losing time on his beloved computer.

Working was tough, but I did get a lot of workout time going from the office to the basement and back again – over and over and over. I confess that I was very happy when the camp bus pulled up to the driveway. I wish that we could have done more things together. But then again, neither of them enjoy doing anything with the other. It’s a nice little tightrope walk.

But does it make me a bad father? Upon reflection, I do not think so. It certainly doesn’t make me a great father, but then again, who is since Robert Young died? Until I figure out how to be infinitely patient and always right, then good will just have to do.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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