Mike Crider realizes that there will be other people who teach his girls as they grow. But there was still a bit of a pang the first time he heard them singing the alphabet song.
When our twins were born, my wife and I made the promise that we would read to them constantly. While it’s tough to do it consistently, my girls have a plethora of books they can read. They will frequently pick one up, and at the age of two, sit down with it and start flipping the pages. Some of the stories they have heard many times, and while they can’t read yet, they can identify pictures and make the connection that the image they are looking at represents a portion of the story.
We have tried to read to the girls since they were infants. Sometimes it was like reading stories to kittens, because we knew they weren’t paying attention to anything we were trying to say. They were too busy crawling all over us and exploring their surroundings.
The girls have also attended daycare since they were nine weeks old. They come from a working family, and at this juncture, it is necessary for my wife and me to work to pay the bills and keep our house. We are very happy with their preschool situation currently, and they love their teachers. But while we know the girls are in good hands, we often struggle with not being able to see them more often.
I feel guilt often because I don’t see the girls enough. I enjoy my job and I work hard to ensure that I perform the tasks proficiently. I also work with great colleagues who understand my family situation and expect me to leave a little earlier than they do. But the fact remains that during the week, I only see the girls for 3-4 hours.
So, one day a couple of weeks ago, the girls came home from preschool, and were singing the alphabet. Granted, they were a little pitchy and left out a couple of letters, but most functional adults could tell that they were singing the alphabet and hitting all the emphasis points in the song. I felt so proud of them because they were these little toddlers already identifying letters and starting to make connections between the song and the picture of the letter. After a moment of pride, however, I felt really guilty.
Where did they learn the alphabet? Because I doubt it was from me.
Sure, I’ve sang the alphabet before with the girls. At the time, they were a bit small, and even though we never underestimate how much a child can comprehend at any age, they could not demonstrate that they understood what we were doing. Now they are at the age where they can make the connection. But I know that I have not sung that to them in a while.
I have written on my blog a couple of times about daddy guilt, and it is tough to be in a position where you do not see your children very often during the week due to work. But it hit another level for me when they were starting to learn things that I have a hard time taking credit for. I remember another time a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I were reading “5 Little Monkeys” to the girls, and they started doing hand motions when we would arrive at the part where the doctor amazingly recommends to the mother that they shouldn’t jump on the bed anymore. Once again, I had read the book to them many times, but I didn’t even know it had hand motions. I looked through the book to see if I had missed an instructional manual somewhere, but none was attached. They learned it at preschool, and it helped them remember.
The purpose of the article is not to tell you how bad of a father I am, because I take pride in my job as a father. I pull my weight in household chores, I change diapers, and I even know how to make a ponytail (it’s the only one I know besides the go-to favorite, the hat). But I often feel the guilt, the creeping doubt inside of me that lets me know that someone else raised my child. Someone else taught them something useful and now I just re-teach and reiterate what someone else has already done. Maybe that’s life, and I should get over it. But all of us want to feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that we were the ones who raised our children and taught them everything we know. Maybe it’s a guy thing, the ego part.
After all, it’s often said at preschool that the girls are extremely well-behaved (which is also a shock, considering the “conversations” we’ve had with the girls about their tantrums) and mannerly. I know that we have raised them in that capacity, but we see a lot less evidence of it at home than at preschool. We take great pride in making sure our girls know right from wrong, but let’s face it. I want to be responsible for teaching my children the foundation of their education. In this instance, I feel like I did not.
Maybe part of being a parent is to understand that the real importance is that your children are learning and are able to grasp important information from other people. After all, they will be doing that for a good portion of their educational lives. There are also things we have done that we know will benefit the girls in the long run. We talk to them constantly, and we don’t talk to them like toddlers; instead, we talk to them as kids that can understand and absorb what we are telling them. That could be why we have a toddler who tells us she “is careful” and she “is patient”, and knows the correct context in which to use these words.
I never understood why people always said, “It takes a village”. Once I had children, however, I understood right away. Other people do contribute to raising our children, and that is not a bad thing. But it’s the constant struggle to balance work, life, and family that sometimes disallows us from celebrating the things that our children are doing.
It’s time for breakfast. I know the girls are up, because they are singing the alphabet in the monitor.
Originally published on Mike Crider’s blog Twin Dad Talks
Photo by joyosity / flickr