What to do When You Dissapoint Your Child

It’s impossible to protect your kids against disappointment in life.
— Nicholas Sparks

Let's get this out of the way on line one: there is no perfect parent. There are plenty of decent folks, doing their best to provide food, shelter, safety, wisdom, and compassion to little ones under their care, but there isn't a perfect parent on the planet. To add insult to injury, parenting is about as simple as refueling a fighter jet at 30,000 feet. At some point, no matter how hard you try, you are going to disappoint your child. I know, because I've been there.

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I'm committed to being a good dad. You can ask anyone who knows me. I'm very involved in the daily lives of my children. I care about them, and I love spending time with the little ragamuffins who share my last name. Sure, they can drive me nucking futs at times, but there is no more significant title in the world than, "Dad." And there is nothing worse than feeling like I have let one of my children down.

This morning was difficult. I had an appointment scheduled for 8 am that I couldn't miss. I didn't find out about the "Dudes and Doughnuts" event at Ben's school until last night. There was nothing I could do. I was stuck. Shame began whispering, "Way to go, Captain Jackass. Your lack of showing up is going to crush him. He's never going to forgive you. What a deadbeat."

I could see it: the other dads and grandpas, sitting around the table, eating Krispy Kreme, while sipping on cheap cafeteria coffee out of a tiny styrofoam cup, laughing with their favorite kindergartener. Across the room, weeping in the corner, all alone, would be my little prince, sure his father had abandoned him forever.

There would be no "Dad of the Year" award for me this year. I've managed to blow it in the first four months of 2018.

Do you do this to yourself, Dad? Mom? Grandma? We're so mean to ourselves. We show no mercy. We think that we should be omnipresent, never missing a single thing. But the truth is: we are human. And sometimes other responsibilities or scheduling conflicts prevent us from doing all the things we'd genuinely love to do.

It's okay, friend.

It is okay.

You are okay.

All you can do is all you can do.

So here's what I did: I shed light on the shame that was eating me alive, and I told my son the truth. "Hey buddy, I just found out about the Dudes and Doughnuts thing. I'm so sorry; I'm not going to be able to make it. I've already taken off for the zoo trip on Thursday, and this one was last-minute. But if you get ready for school right now, we'll leave 20 minutes early and grab a cake pop and chocolate milk on the way to school. Just me and you! How's that sound?"

To my surprise, he didn't cry. There was no stomping of the feet or hint of sadness on his face. In fact, Ben hugged me close and said, "You're the best Dada in the whole world. I love a cake pop!" It wasn't even an issue. He was thrilled.

All you can do is all you can do.

You are okay.

You are enough.

You are doing your very best.

Parenting isn't easy. You are going to disappoint your children from time to time. Aside from parenting, all of adulting is backbreaking work. So do yourself a favor and start speaking to yourself with kindness. You are the one constant in your whole life: are you a friend or foe?

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