Limited Expectations: On Raising Children

My wife wants my daughter to have a childhood filled with wonder, which is great. Depending on the day, my daughter wants to be a mermaid, a superhero, a pop star or a dolphin, which is also…nice. For my part, I just want Darcy to put on a pair of socks in less than twenty minutes before we leave the house for the day.

Being a stay at home father, I suppose I approach my daughter’s hopes from a more tactical mindset, and part of that includes having my daughter wear clothes or brush her teeth or even bathe occasionally. It’s not that I don’t want Darcy to have a childhood filled with wonder. I’m just trying to reconcile her wishes with my understanding of what she needs to learn to be a reasonably functional adult and, the last time I checked, that didn’t include being a dolphin.

I’m sure being a dolphin would be fantastic, but it would come with certain pitfalls. For starters, vacations would probably be limited to the coasts. Holidays would probably be a bit awkward. My family is relatively open minded, but explaining to my old man that I’d let my only child grow up to be a water dwelling mammal would be stretching even his broadminded nature. Then again, he might come around to the idea.

“Well, at least she’s not pregnant,” I can hear him grumble, “or Belgian.”

Family get-togethers would also be pretty uncomfortable if Darcy were a princess. The last time I checked, I didn’t have any noble blood. Even if I did, I’d be a bit hesitant to marry Darcy off to some gangly inbred prince in order to solidify my recent land gains in Eurasia.

Superheros are also probably out. When I was around my daughter’s age, my parents bought me a pair of Superman Underoos and I spent the next two hours jumping off of my bed in the hopes that I would take flight. I was fairly certain it wouldn’t happen, but there was a part of me, a very small part, that thought if I really believed, I’d be able to…well, maybe hover or something.

My most impressive (and final) leap took place when I got a running start from my bed, tripped over my comforter, and took to the air for all of a split second before I came crashing to the floor. In hindsight, that pretty much sums up my approach to life, dating, work and just about everything else over the past four decades.

The realization that I couldn’t fly was disappointing in and of itself. It would have been even worse if my parents inquired about the regular thumps they’d been hearing for the past few hours. I’m sure they were aware of what I was up to and the fact that they chose to ignore it is either indicative of the 1980s or simply that sometimes parents realize it’s best for innocence to die a quiet and somewhat dignified death.

It’s that line that I’m trying to straddle. Darcy has every right to believe in just about whatever it is that she wants to believe. She’s seven, after all, and it won’t be too long until my daughter comes to the understanding that she’ll probably never be a dolphin or a mermaid or a pop star or even fly on her own power with the aid of special underwear.

My daughter deserves to live life full of magic for as long as she can. Life has its share of disappointments, but childhood should be exempt from as many of them for as long as possible. Once innocence is lost, it rarely, if ever, comes back. Until that time, I suppose I can wait for twenty or thirty minutes for my daughter to put on a pair of socks or tie a pair of shoes. There are, after all, more important things for both of us to learn.

This post was originally published on The Unfit Father