I’ve been at this parenting game long enough to have accumulated quite a bit of dirt beneath my fingernails (which have been painted numerous times and in a variety of colors by my two daughters) and to have walked a metaphorical mile with LEGO bricks stuck to the bottom of my parental feet. Still, I’m not immune to the nagging twinge of parental insecurity, and I too doubt myself more than any parent who tries probably should.
It’s damn hard to be alive and alert in the Pinterest age of perceived perfection filled with amazing school lunches and darling lunch notes, handmade end-of-year teacher’s gifts that radiate thoughtfulness, and countless kid/parent video serieses, each one more clever than the last. I can’t compete with all of that shit, either.
But this isn’t a competition. Our kids aren’t going to be holding up a score placard like the crooked Ukrainian judge at the end of a figure skating tournament. They love us and if we try hard, they will notice and appreciate our effort to keep them on the straight and narrow even if we take a winding path to get there. So stop fretting every decision and judging yourself against the people of the internet. Half that shit is Photoshopped anyway.
Here are the seven things I finally stopped worrying about as a parent, and in turn, have become a better, happier parent almost instantly:
Worry No. 1: Serving my kids vegetables and/or fruit every single day.
My wife and I have built a sturdy foundation, of this I am nearly almost totally 99% certain, probably, so there is no longer (was there ever?) a need to panic about their fruit and veggie intake on a daily basis. My daughters each, although one WAY more than the other, enjoy many varieties of fruits and veggies, raw and prepared in a variety of ways. It’s all good. And if they skip a day or two, I know that they will be fine.
Worry No. 2: Spending an hour or two in front of a screen instead of playing outside.
It can be fun to loaf around and play games. They are kids after all, and it’s pretty cool to sometimes veg out in front of a TV screen or a device. The outside — with its sticks, lightning bugs, swing sets and scooters — is an option they choose often enough, so I can chillax if they, on occasion, pick the iPad or the 3DS instead. They will be fine.
Worry No. 3: Missing some of the check-the-box tourist destinations while traveling together as a family.
We no longer push our daughters’ physical or mental limits to squeeze in everything when we travel. Instead, we do what we can at a leisurely pace, see what we can see, experience more of a place than see all of that place, and in turn, leave the girls plenty still to discover should they return decades later with their own kids. So what if we miss something being sold on a postcard at the airport. They will be fine.
Worry No. 4: Wearing shorts that are tiny or shirts that are tight.
Their ass cheeks aren’t sticking out, their underwear is not visible, and the pockets are not longer than the hem (man, that trend is hideous) of their denim shorts, but the clothes they are in are a bit tiny-ish. I could never get comfortable in threads like that, although now that I’m losing weight I find form fitting shirts more pleasant than baggy ones but then again, I am a man — no one is going to bat an eye if my form is evident through my clothing as I walk down the street. Women don’t have it so easy. My girls, they are 10 and 7, and they wear what makes them most happy without a care about a world full of adults who might judge, men who might leer, or women who might tsk-tsk. My two goofball daughters dress for themselves and no one else, and that is what I wish to instill in them. They are comfy and they will be fine.
Worry No. 5: Jumping in the pool immediately after eating.
To quote Josh and the Jamtones hilarious “Bear Hunt” comedy skit, “So I just had a piece of pizza, who cares?” Myths are for those with too much time on their hands. Finish chewing then cannonball away, girls, you will be fine.
Worry No. 6: Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, that “Best Day of my Life” song and other pop music.
That stuff is no longer a bugaboo for me … but the Demi Lovato version of “Let it Go” still sucks. I’m grateful for the “kindie” music that has allowed me as a music lover to give my daughters song upon song that they were able to “get” from a very young age, songs that spoke to them and their childhood experiences as toddlers, grade schoolers and now as kids who are just now beginning to grow out of their youth with a wistful melancholy about that very transition. While amazing bands like The Pop Ups, Recess Monkey, Lunch Money and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo are still being spun loudly and with much love, they are sharing space in our iTunes library with more familiar names. It is all good because my girls know what great music, made with passion, and presented live in intimate settings, is all about. They’ve been holding hands with it from the start. And they will be fine.
Worry No. 7: Not playing organized sports or ‘official’ extracurricular competitive activities.
They’ve tried gymnastics, ballet, tap, soccer, karate, basketball, floor hockey, tennis and golf yet nothing has proved as sticky as imaginative unstructured playtime together as sisters at home. They get along with other kids, especially if the other kids are younger and adorable, that’s when my two mini-mommies shine, and so I am no longer concerned with the absence of team or solo competitive pursuits. Many “experts” will tell you a child needs such activity, but even without many going forward, I am certain my daughters will be absolutely fine.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on Out With the Kids.