Role reversal: Parents want kids' approval

Family Matters

February 01, 2004|By Susan Reimer

My husband covers sports for USA Today, and today he is covering the Super Bowl. I think he is hoping that fact will finally impress the kids.

Over the years, he has traveled so much for his job that the kids occasionally have failed to realize when he was out of town, let alone what he was doing.

There is no question that there is a certain cachet in covering big-time sporting events. It sure beats being a door-to-door salesman. But that isn't a distinction your toddler is going to make.

I remember Jessie, when she was little, expressing surprise that Daddy was at the Olympics. "I thought he was sleeping," she explained.

When they are waiting at the window for you in their footed sleepers, you can be a greengrocer or a CIA assassin for all it matters to them. All they know for sure is that you are not home.

My job is not nearly so glamorous but, for years, the kids were equally ignorant about what I did when I left the house. But they were no less unhappy about it.

I remember Joe saying, "You get all dressed up and leave, come home in a bad mood and make us a sorry dinner." I have always thought that pretty much sums up how most children feel about Mom working, whether she is a test pilot or a florist.

Now my children are old enough to know exactly what their father and I do for a living, and I must say, their reactions are a disappointment. They are blase about Super Bowls and Olympics and furious about columns that mention them.

I could win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism and my kids would think it was nothing but a lame excuse for not making it to the grocery store again.

No doubt about it. We want to impress our kids. Especially now, when they are teen-agers and so eye-rollingly ready to dismiss us.

I don't recall my parents ever talking about their jobs, let alone trying to impress us with the details. So this must be something new.

It might be, I think, the emotional byproduct of working at all, because working takes us away from our children, and we feel guilty about that. Even husbands, who have been there since the Lamaze classes, feel pulled by the kids at home in ways that I don't think our fathers did.

Our children would not mind being left in day care or with a sitter, we reason, if they understood that we were interviewing superstars or saving the world.

That's because children have come to mean more to this generation of parents than just about anything else, including our jobs. Even more than our faith. Our children are our religion now, and we work at doing right by them the way we might work for salvation.

We read books and advice columns in newspapers. We go to classes and eavesdrop on conversations. We confess to friends and ask their advice. We pray and worry and lie awake at night and argue with our spouses.

We are students of the art of parenting, many of us, and we want to get it right. Mostly because we are daily reminded of the tragedy of getting it wrong. From sitters who shake babies to death to teens who stumble into addiction, terrible things can happen if parents aren't doing a good job.

It is safe to say that our children may never be impressed with the job we did as their parents. Children usually believe every success is theirs alone, and we were nothing more than, well, fans in the bleachers.

Maybe that's why we hope that stuff like a press credential from the Super Bowl will catch their attention.

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