Feeling Our Way

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Parenting is a Zero Sum Game

“The old ball and chain” is your child, not your spouse. Read More

My children were not a ball and chain

I viewed my years with young children as a chance to become a child again myself, enjoying trips to the playground, dance and gymnastics lessons and recitals, Little League baseball and rec league basketball and soccer games, swim meets, board games, cartoons, Disney movies, games of hide and seek or playground basketball and trips to science museums or amusement parks. I guess I "missed out" on going out for cocktails or fancy dinners or more adult movies but I tried to take an attitude of "been there, done that."

Now my kids are college age and I enjoy healthy relationships with both of them. Would I have these two wonderful friends to enjoy if I had viewed them as a "ball and chain" when they were little and needed me? Perhaps, but I doubt it. And one thing I know for sure: my own life would have been been much poorer for it.

Children are wonderful.

I have two, both are great kids and I enjoy my time with them. From taking them to their activities to just hanging out with them, to taking vacations with them, my husband and I wouldn't trade our parenting experiences for anything.

I was a ball and chain and lived to tell

DroneDad's reply ignores the point of the blog post in order to promote his own purportedly straightforward warm, loving, uncomplicated (and suspiciously self-laudatory) feelings about having a child. To me, it seems that to be a responsible adult precludes regressing to childhood oneself. Surely, an adult, responsible parent can feel bound (as if to a "ball and chain") by responsibilities while still being playful (and while putting the child's health and wellbeing first). Does DroneDad just mean to assert that he, personally, is a terrific, fun-loving and childlike father, in contrast to the blogger (who, I daresay, is somewhat more honest about the spectrum of human feelings that one can experience: not only those that paint a pretty picture)? Since apparently we're talking about ourselves now, I personally would rather be the kid of a dad who cheerfully refers to me, with affection, as the "ball and chain" as opposed to one who won't acknowledge a wide range of feelings, attitudes & behaviors that can still add up to "good dad." The latter seems way more likely to be mean to me when his inevitable aggression expresses itself and makes him feel like a bad person.

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Michael Karson, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Denver.


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