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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Always room for improvement

Friday, June 18, 2010

I will never be content with my performance as a parent. Constantly critical of myself and always striving to be better, as it should be.

Maybe it's because I have been in the position of being a single father with full custody of my son since he was an infant. Let me tell you, after a few-hundred comments from grocery store clerks saying; "Are you spending the weekend with Daddy little guy?" or "How sweet, you taking him shopping so Mom can have a break?" and you begin to feel like a second-class parent. "If they only knew," I typically think to myself and smile in silence.

As much as I strive to prove the biased majority wrong in its belief that one parent is more important than the other, I really have two people to credit for my unquenchable drive to be a better parent. You guessed it, my mother and my father. My mom was and still is, as most mothers are, an incredible parent. A "wolf-mother" whose kids were first and foremost in her life. She is my motivation and the example I strive to be more like.

My father disappeared from my life when I was about Declan's age and made only a couple of cameo appearances over the next 20 years. Although the encounters with him were few and usually very brief, there was always a lasting memory from each one of exactly what never to do as a parent. As incredible as it seems, I learned some of my most cherished lessons from his many examples of how not to be.

Regardless of my stellar upbringing at the hands of my mother, I still found myself in my early 20s very comfortable, if not enjoying, using curse words as a regular part of my vocabulary. I had thought over the years that I was much improved if not cured of this "ailment," but one afternoon Declan made me realize I still had room for improvement.

He dropped a box of crayons that burst open and spilled everywhere. First reaching out to it as it slipped out of his hands, then stopping to watch the contents race in all directions. He exhaled as I watched over him from behind and ever so comfortably said a word so colorful I was 100 percent certain I had misheard him.

"What?" I said simply. He looked up at me and repeated the word as clearly as can be so that I could hear him properly. I was stunned and still 100 percent certain there was something wrong with my ears.

"What?!" I repeated, with a little more confusion and emphasis. He turned as calmly as can be to face me and looked up, his face riddled with innocence, and repeated the word a third time.

Their was no mistake, no hearing problem, he was saying exactly what I feared he had initially said. I was so taken aback that I wasn't sure what to say.

I fumbled with saying anything and eventually mumbled, "Declan...what is that word, what do you think that word means?" I asked as my mind was processing at warp speed, unable to find an acceptable solution to the scenario.

His innocent expression turned to one of impatience, the impatience he gets when he begins to act like the world around him is simply just not as smart as it ought to be.

"Dad, its the word you use when you drop something, you didn't mean to drop!" He shook his head, turned away and began picking up the mess below him.

I had no one else to blame, it was undeniable. I was confident no one at his school would use a word like that, but I was fairly certain I might have, given the proper scenario and mistaken belief at the time that Declan was not within earshot.

We had a short conversation regarding the word being a "bad word" that was never to be used, which Declan seemed to have no problem with, but I had a much longer conversation with myself over the next few days and a nice reminder that I will always have to work at being a good parent.

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Bruce Baker
Dinner with Declan