Remember the time you overcame your hatred of crafts to make the perfect costume for your kindergartener’s school event? Remember the time the Tooth Fairy fell asleep and forgot to visit? What about the day when your kids agitated for a social cause they strongly believed in? What about the first time your 7-year-old dropped an F-bomb?
These little triumphs and fails happen to all parents, and they’re all worth celebrating (or ruing). At the beginning of each episode of Mom and Dad Are Fighting, Slate’s parenting podcast, we reveal parenting triumphs and fails from our own lives. We’ll share them here every other Thursday, the day the episodes go live.
Dan: I have a fail this week. It’s a fail that I recognize myself doing in various ways over and over. It was a very familiar fail.
The deal is, we were at a pool party this weekend. We were all invited, and L&H swam around with friends for hours. And then at the end of the party, L, after we were all totally baked by the sun, couldn’t find her shoes. Now, she is a very absentminded child who forgets things and loses things ALL THE TIME. Shoes are a particular problem for her and a bugaboo for me. I feel like every day she is like, “WHERE ARE MY SHOES?!” and I am like, “ARE THEY IN THE SHOE BIN?!” and she’s like, “THEY’RE NOT THERE,” and I am like, “JUST PUT THEM WHERE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO GO ARRGGAHRLHJK!!!”
But this time I have it on good authority from Alia—when they got to the pool party—that she put the shoes with all our pool stuff by the picnic table. And pretty soon it becomes clear that almost certainly some other family took them home by mistake—that is, it’s prolly not L’s fault the shoes are gone.
But I could not stop fussing at her about it. Not because I think it’s her fault that she lost the shoes. It’s that I am so annoyed that the shoes we just bought are gone, and she has to go home barefoot. I am also annoyed at all the OTHER times she lost shoes, and then I go into this long thing about if she had just put her shoes into the bag, this wouldn’t have happened. I also said that she ALWAYS does this and she reasonably notes, “That’s crazy, Dad. Who puts their shoes into a bag at the pool?”
Anyway, I was fussing at her, like, forever, about something else, something that was different than what was actually happening at that moment—which was not her fault—and so this was not the time for me to be barfing my hatred of shoes all over her. All it did was make her feel like I was being unfair, because I was.
I think this is something I do a lot. I let something build up over time, all sort of boil up, and let it all out on the wrong moment. So, I think that was a fail and I’ll try to do much better.
Allison: I have been there. I know exactly how that feels. I’ll accept that as a fail.
All right, I have a triumph! It is a Dan Kois–facilitated triumph.
Dan: Hooray! So, in a way, I triumphed?
Allison: Yes, you did. You taught me a valuable lesson.
Yesterday I told Dan that my parenting fail this week would be that even though I had been promising S all year that I would go with him on his class trip to the circus, I was going to have to miss it because of work. In other words, I couldn’t be a good parent because I had to be at work to record a parenting podcast.
Dan: The irony is rich.
Allison: All year I’ve been saying no to things: “No, I can’t come to the class trip to Prospect Park. No, I can’t come to that play. But guess what; I am definitely going on the circus trip, just like I did with H!”
The circus was my thing. Mom and S were going to the circus! But then, when I realized that the circus would conflict with the podcast, I thought, Well, maybe John can go with S. So, basically: I can back out on S, but I can’t back out on work. I can’t back out on Dan.
BUT THEN, Dan saved the day and said, “Nothing bad will happen if we just record the podcast later.” And so here we are, after 4:30 p.m. We normally record at 10:30 in the morning. Dan, our producer Ann, and intern Jessie were all willing to record late so I could go to the circus this morning—which I really loved doing. I also loved being able to finally send the message to S that he is actually waaaaaaay more important to me than work. So, triumph.
Dan: So, at least this one time.
Allison: I think I was more upset about it than he was. I originally told him that I wasn’t going to go. He was upset, but I think I felt it more in my gut. I thought: That’s the wrong decision, Allison.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.