Am I too tough on them? Or am I too lenient? Is it okay to give kids slices of pizza laden with double portions of pepperoni and cheese (and grease)? Should we cut out TV altogether or just limit screen time? Should we use cloth or disposable diapers? How young is too young for a smartphone? Are iPads baby-friendly? Why is it taking them so long to fall asleep? Should I go back in there to check on them? How can I convince Disney to renew Phineas & Ferb for six more seasons and a movie? Why would Spiderman ever pick on poor, unsuspecting tourists?
We are in the stage of constant questioning. I knew it would happen along eventually, I just didn’t realize that I would be the one with the most questions. I knew that kids hit a question phase; I didn’t realize that fatherhood itself, as a whole, was a big, long question phase.
Call it youthful ignorance if you will (I’ll stick with naïve exuberance), but I thought that a lot of this stuff would just be common sense. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect, but I figured I would have at least a little bit nailed down.
I shouldn’t have so many questions, right? They’re just children, after all. Wasn’t I myself a child not too long ago? (I will soon celebrate my Eleventy-First birthday, if you must know.) Something must be wrong with me. I can’t be this far behind the curve…can I? Am I?
I’ve found it really easy to get bogged down with questions that don’t always appear to have readily discernible answers. Then, when I get sufficiently bogged down, it’s altogether too easy to get discouraged. This, in turn, can mean that my inner hope particles begin to slow down and leave me feeling much like a frozen balloon. (Science!)
Why isn’t it the same for a seemingly irrepressible three-year-old? There are probably a few things that play into it, but there is one key difference that stands out to me: He feels safe asking the question in the first place.
He has no qualms when it comes to asking questions about whatever topic comes to mind. He knows that, whether we have an answer or not, he has permission to ask as many questions as he likes. He knows that we won’t mock him or judge him or be disappointed in him when he has questions to bring to us.
A large part of my dilemma is that I haven’t really given myself permission to ask–or even have–questions. I worry about how I will be perceived if I ask this question. How I might be mocked if I ask that question? How might I be judged, or who might I disappoint, if I don’t have things figured out in this area of my life? Does the fact that I have questions mean that I’ve let God down? Have I botched one of the most important assignments of my life, the call of fatherhood?
As it stands, I don’t think questions are the problem after all. How else do we get answers, how else do we learn, without first asking questions? It’s pride that gets in the way, not questions. It’s an unwillingness to reach out for a lifeline when floundering.
We dads need to have a safe place to ask questions. We need to make use of that safe place. We need to give ourselves permission to ask the questions that plague us, no matter how simple or difficult they seem.
I need to, anyways. Without that permission, I wouldn’t be able to ask important questions like:
“ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL???”
Sorry. I needed to get that out of my system. Seriously though, who is ready for some football? If you happen to live close to where an NFL team (*coughcough*GreenBayPackers*coughcough*) holds their preseason training camp, that can make for a fantastic father-child outing.
I’m just sayin’.