I’m not one for jewelry.
I don’t wear a necklace, and I definitely don’t wear any bracelets. I don’t wear a watch or a Fitbit; I never even wore a LiveStrong band. I keep it simple. Beauty like this doesn’t need adornments!
But I’ve been wearing a rubber band on my wrist for a little while now. It’s not a fashion statement; it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that I am too hard on my 7-year-old.
It’s a reminder that I yell too much. That I say “no” too much. That I lose my patience with him too frequently and I scold him too often and I don’t cut him enough slack.
It’s a reminder that he’s only 7 years old. That he’s still just a little boy. That he’s still learning about the world, about himself, about me, and that most of the stuff he does that drives me crazy is the same stuff other little boys do.
It’s a reminder that he’s still adjusting to having a little brother, to sharing his toys, his home, even his parents.
And it’s a reminder that I’m only human myself! That I’m still learning about the world, about myself, about my 7-year-old and his little brother, and about being a good parent.
I’m not a perfect person, and I’m definitely not a perfect father. I make as many mistakes as my kids do, despite the fact that I have a good thirty-five years more experience.
The rubber band helps me remember that, and helps me remember that that’s okay, that parenting is a process, that it’s okay to get some things wrong, so long as you keep trying and you learn from those mistakes.
It’s a reminder that I need to do better, that I need to keep my voice down, that I need to stay calm for longer, that I need to say yes more often.
It’s a reminder that I don’t want my kids to grow up scared of their dad, or to think of me as the “grumpy” parent.
The idea behind the rubber band is that when I catch myself forgetting those things, when I find myself engaging in my bad parenting habits, forgetting to be patient and understanding with my kids, I pull it back and give myself a flick on the wrist. It’s supposed to act as a deterrent.
I’m sure this isn’t an original idea, but I don’t think that matters. It’s new to me, and I feel like I need it.
As someone who is loath to take advice from other parents and who openly disdains the idea of parenting experts, it’s not just a reminder. It’s also an acknowledgment that you don’t have to know everything to realize that you don’t know everything.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to flick my wrist much so far. Not because I haven’t screwed up, quite the contrary. But in the week that I’ve been wearing the rubber band, just its presence has been enough to keep me mindful of my parenting, and my relationship with my children, and of the kind of dad I want to be.
Besides, every once in a while it snags an arm hair and wow, that’s painful in itself!
A version of this first appeared on Dad and Buried. Rubber band photo: druid labs on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA.
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