Rendering Judgment

Yesterday my daughter toddled into the house after pre-school and issued her usual demand.

“Peppa TV Daddy! Peppa TV!”

My daughter is totally in love with Peppa Pig, a children’s cartoon from Great Britain.  Much to the amusement of her teachers she’s watched so much of it that she’d developed an English accent. Until a few months ago, I had never heard of the show but now my house is filled with Peppa books, Peppa clothes, Peppa dolls, and Peppa toys. That little porker’s got a lot of my money.

My wife was still outside collecting things from the car so I turned on the TV and pulled an episode of Peppa off the DVR. When the show’s theme song played my daughter’s face lit up with joy. “Peppa!” she cried. “I’m Peppa and you’re Daddy Pig!”

“Thank you, dear,” I said, sadly noting my resemblance to the show’s pater familias.

My daughter secured, I headed to the basement to put a load of towels on. Then, just as I turned on the machine, the bloodcurdling screams began. “Daddy!” my daughter wailed. “Daddyyyyyyy!”

Racing upstairs I found my wife waving the remote control in her hand. “No Peppa,” she said. “You were very bad. I told you no Peppa.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“She threw a tantrum in the car and threw her juice box at me. I just finished cleaning it up.”

“Daddy!” Natalie screamed. “I want Peppa. Peppa! Peppa!”

“You know she wants Peppa the minute she walks in the door,” I said to my wife. “How was I supposed to know she was being punished?”

“It’s not your fault,” my wife said. “I should have told you right away.”

“Now I look like the villain.”

“Sorry.”

I had just wrapped up a tough day at work and the last thing I wanted was my kid having a meltdown. I briefly thought about overriding my wife and letting Natalie watch her show, but undermining my spouse and rewarding my daughter for bad behavior might’ve earned me a night on the couch. I like my bed.

“Sorry, Natalie, I said, looking at her tear and snot stained face. “No Peppa.”

“Nooooooo!” Natalie screamed, pulling a full Linda Blair. “Nooooooooo!” Then she threw herself onto the ground.

“I knew I shouldn’t have given my copy of the Rite of Exorcism away.” I said.

“She’ll be fine,” my wife said. “Don’t worry.”

“You’re not my favorite, Daddy,” Natalie yelled. “You’re not my favorite!” Ouch.  I know enough about child psychology to understand that my daughter’s sense of self is emerging and it was a healthy sign that she was angry, but the words still stung.

“I don’t have to be your favorite, Natalie,” I said, patting her head. “Just know that you’ll always be my favorite.” My daughter’s response was to slap my hand away.

“Don’t slap Daddy!” my wife yelped.

“Let it go,” I said. “There’s only so much a three-year-old can process.”

My wife took Natalie upstairs and placed her in her crib. As I sat on the couch listening to my daughter cry I thought about the future. One day Natalie is going tell me, “I hate you.” It’ll probably be because I’ll have set a limit – no TV, no car, no party, no sneaking out of the house at 2:00 AM – and she’ll freak. I can live with that. But one day that hatred will probably be well deserved.

All parents screw up their children. I don’t care if you’ve spent 20 years on the analyst’s couch working through all the issues you inherited from your folks, you’ll find all new ways to mess up your kids. Life is going to throw you so many curve balls that eventually you’ll strike out and your children will get hurt.  Every day I see obvious reasons why kids get damaged – abuse, poverty, affluence run amok, lack of nurturance, poor boundaries, mental illness – you name it.  But there are good parents out there who live exemplary lives and still have children with problems and are often mystified as to why.

The only explanation I can come up with is that everybody is damaged and eventually part of it gets imprinted on our children. What’s worse, we probably will have no idea what we did or how it affected our little ones. But no one has a perfect childhood and I feel bad for those well-intentioned parents who knock themselves out trying to create an unattainably idyllic state for their kids. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to be good moms and dads but there’s a limit to what foible laden human beings can accomplish. Besides, chasing perfection often brings about its own terrors.

Eventually all children render judgment on their parents. It’s part of the journey of life. My own parents made their share of mistakes and, for a while, I was pissed at them for it. But when I got older I began to see them as regular human beings and considered the hands life had dealt them. If I had been in their shoes would I have done better? Probably not. And now that I have children of my own and understand the stresses they went through; I’ve reached a deeper appreciation of the excellent job my parents pulled off. And trust me, my brother and I weren’t angels either.

One day Natalie will stand over my grave and reflect on the kind of father I was. Feelings about parents are complicated and there’s no use in me trying to predicting the outcome. Hopefully my daughter will cherish the good, toss out the bad and realize that her Dad was just an average man who loved her deeply and tried his best. I pray everyday for the wisdom to do the right thing.

My wife came back downstairs, looking like she had been in sustained combat.  “Natalie’s asleep.”

“Good,” I said. “She probably needed a nap.”

“So what do you want for dinner?”

I looked my wife straight in the eye and said. “Pork chops.”

Take that Peppa. Delicious!

18 thoughts on “Rendering Judgment”

  1. Jessica says:

    This morning my 5-year-old told me he didn’t like me anymore because I insisted that he get dressed before going to school. Parenting is rough, man.

  2. pkudude99 says:

    My 7-yr old likes to tell me that “You’re mean! i don’t like you anymore!” when it’s time to do her math homework. Any other time I’m still “my favorite daddy!” though.

  3. Jeff says:

    Glad things worked out. Never heard of Peppa but he seems to be a little snot! Glad you are posting again, semi-regularly.

  4. Kaleberg says:

    You also have to consider that it isn’t always just the parents who did the damage or failed to protect their child. There are other things out there, and there is just bad luck. You’ve worked in the mental health business, so you’ve seen at least one kind of the bad luck where no parent can kiss the boo-boo and magically make the child whole. In other words, you are doing a pretty good job, so don’t beat yourself up and ruminate on the “damage” you are doing.

    1. waiter says:

      The world bruises us all.

  5. Tom Harris says:

    When I first got on to Waiterrant in 2004, I was homeschooling my 3 daughters…..the youngest was 3. Now they are gone, two in NM and one married and in St.Loius……savor every moment , my friend, she is only on loan to you from God.

  6. Waiterrant Fan says:

    I am fine with my kids disliking me for laying down ground rules and sticking to them.
    That’s called ‘parenting’.
    It is not necessary that my children think that everything I do is wonderful or that I bend the rules to accommodate their desires.
    That is also called ‘parenting’.
    It is important for children to know what the rules are, that they will not be compromised, and that their are consequences to disobeying the rules.
    That is – you guessed it – parenting.
    Your children will grow up more grounded and well behaved when they understand those rules. Indulgence breeds poorly behaved children.
    Lastly – the best gift you can give your child is to love and support her mother. Always back her up – don’t let Natalie wedge you two.
    Good luck.

  7. Rahul says:

    Your lil girl sounds cute Mr Waiter. I came across your blog around 5-6 years ago, I don’t don’t know how . I apologise for not commenting, in writing world, it’s as bad a sin as not tipping. Sincerest apologies. I however enjoyed your waiter days, 1,000 yard stare and all.

  8. Marcus says:

    Some times I envy my childless friends. Right around those times a hug, a smile or an “I love you!”, makes it all worth having to deal with. Treasure these moments. They will be gone all too soon.

  9. Judd says:

    judGment

    1. waiter says:

      Thanks!

  10. Jim Carver says:

    Peppa Pig is massive in our house (from the UK) After watching what seems like hundreds of episodes I consider myself something of an expert and I conclude that Peppa Pig is the most selfish, condescending, spoilt little brat who is horrible to all her family and friends. Daddy Pig on the other hand is a legend.

  11. Hope says:

    Having lost my father less than 3 weeks ago I can tell you that in death much is forgiven.

  12. Nikki says:

    They are all the same. Poor you. Peppa. Sometimes I think the British hate us which is why they send us Peppa and her ilk. Why Daddy Pig hasn’t had her turmed into a yard of yummy sausage links by now I will never know. Still she has many fans. The good news is this. They grow out of the Peppa stage pretty quickly. For months, in my world, it was backyadigans and Thomas the Tank Engine. Then one day, just when another day with Sir Toppenhat was on my radar, it was all over. Now 14 he denies ever having liked them or the Barbie Princess video he watched endlessly for weeks for no known reason. Kids.

  13. James Bond says:

    Judgement is different for every person,one person is different from another.

  14. cutiepie145 says:

    Judgement cannot be entertained by somebody else its within the eye of the beholder.
    http://imageflings.com/image-viewer/?image_id=10026

  15. Zeerow says:

    Thanks for the post, Waiter, insightful and profound as always. I certainly miss the old posts about waitering, but life has kept you full of nuggets (of wisdom)….

  16. Ruby Ramirez says:

    What a great read. Glad things worked out. My 6 year old also sometimes says things like that, especially when he needs to do something he doesn’t want to, lol

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