Do you suck as a parent?

I walked up to my wife sitting by the poolside. A few minutes before, we’d struck up a conversation with a pleasant man about my age with two sons. He’s been coming to Florida for several years now and spending time enjoying the theme parks. He was nowhere in sight when I showed up. My wife didn’t hesitate to warn me.
“When he comes back, don’t talk to him about religion,” she said. She knows I rarely miss the opportunity to raise the topic of any religion and poke holes at its belief system in relation to human rights. “I asked him if he went on any of the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios and he says that it’s against his religion. Too much about sorcery and dark forces. He doesn’t let his kids have anything to do with Harry Potter.” 
I thought gleefully, He is NUTS! Prevent your kids from a worldwide phenomenon that has enthralled adults and children alike? I have to have a talk with this guy! “Don’t say anything to him about religion,” Carolyn repeated. Dammit, I’m on vacation and I can’t have any fun. I kept my mouth shut and went down the water slide.
The day before, waiting in line for the Cat in the Hat ride at the Universal Studios theme park, I heard a mother behind me admonish her young daughter. “I slapped you because you were mishbehaving.”
Last week as I was waiting for my son to finish his appointment at the dentist, I noticed four other parents in the waiting room with their children. All the parents had their noses in their smartphones, tapping away and ignoring their children.
I think each of these parents is doing something wrong, or at least not taking into consideration one of the foundational principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely the best interests of the child. Simply put, this means that all decisions affecting children have to be made in their best interests. For the smartphone-obsessed parents, they shouldn’t wonder why the hell their children don’t bother listening to them if they themselves have no interest in communicating. As for the slap-happy mom, she shouldn’t expect her child to act any differently towards her children when the time comes. It goes without saying that hitting a child will never, ever be in her best interests. And when it comes to the anti-Harry Potter dad, well he seemed like a nice man but if he’s concerned that Harry Potter will have a negative influence on his children, he should take a little more time reading the Bible, particularly the passages related to killing innocent people, denigrating women, and accepting slavery, to name but a few choice issues that are contrary to ensuring a person’s dignity.
Fine I’m not perfect either. I don’t think any parent is. My children fought today and I yelled at them. I hate myself for yelling – every time, without fail. When I do yell, I will be honest: it feels good at the time. It feels good because I am so mad that I have to find a way to let it out. But every time I realize that No, yelling wasn’t the answer. I’m learning to be a parent as much as my children are learning to be kids, and I don’t always appreciate how difficult that is. My children are changing, becoming more assertive, more independent, more willing to cherish their privacy. I sometimes feel as though I have less to say to them than before. But then again, it’s probably times like this when I need to search a bit deeper and reach out to them. At their ages, I was in a world of my own and becoming increasingly distant from my mother. It’s not a pattern I wish to repeat with my children. 
As my children finally fell asleep tonight, my wife gave me a weary “what are we doing wrong?” look. I looked at her and said, “I don’t know if this is a reason, but we haven’t hugged them as much since we’ve been on vacation.” She went to hug Boy 1, who in the end had a lot to say, and probably just needed a parent to listen for a change.

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