Disappointing Your Children, Or How Much Mr. Rogers and My Dad Don’t Have in Common

There are certain things in life you can count on.  The sky is blue, all poop stinks, April 15 is Tax Day (that’s today, yo), and Jon Hamm is ridiculously handsome.  Another certainty in life is that if you are a parent raising children, you will disappoint them at some time.  It’s okay.  You’re supposed to.

I have distinct memories as a child of feeling disappointed, but keeping that disappointment to myself.  Not all the time — I absolutely was the master of pouting at the dinner table.  But certain times, when I was disappointed in a situation or a parent or at a birthday or holiday and I did not get what I wanted, well, I handled that disappointment privately.  How did I know how to do that?  Who taught me?

And is hiding disappointment good or bad?  Hell, I don’t know.  I do know that my five year old handles his disappointments differently.  He is a master of the PDD — public display of disappointment.  It never fails to embarrass me.  We talk about it.  Mostly, his disappointments revolve around not getting what he wants or at transition times.  Time for dinner, time for school, time for bed, time for bath — those times are often difficult and the boy thoroughly shows his disappointment in varying degrees.

His five year old displays frustrate me no end.  They bring out my parenting id and super ego.  Remember the image of the little angel and devil on your shoulders?  Well, those are just handy symbols for your id (devil) and super ego (angel).  My personal parenting id and super ego images will make you laugh.  They are none other than my Dad and Mr. Rogers.  Sigh.  What does it say for me as a mom blogger that I have no maternal representation of the id and super ego?!

This is when I should have a therapist on speed dial.


So there is Mr. Rogers on one shoulder in the midst of my boy’s little (or not so little) PDD reminding me that children having a full range of emotional expression is important and acceptable.  That it’s okay to be angry, it’s just not okay to throw that wooden robot against the wall in the midst of that anger.  And over there on the other shoulder is my dear old Dad — the ultimate authoritarian figure — tsk tsking about the boy getting the better of me and that he would teach him a thing or two with a pat on the po po.

My parental super ego -- Mr. Rogers!  Probably the most he has in common with my Dad is that they both love cardigans.
My parental super ego — Mr. Rogers! Probably the most he has in common with my Dad is that they both love cardigans.

And there is me, smack dab in the middle between Mr. Rogers and my Dad, trying to figure out this whole kid thing.

My dear Da, my personal parenting id, and some pretty insane product placement.
My dear Da, my personal parenting id, and some pretty insane product placement.

Parenting is hard and we all want to do it right.  I mean, by nature I am a pleaser — I want to do a good job, I enjoy pleasing those around me, and I benefit from the positive reinforcement pleasing folks brings.  But when my son sees red, so do I.  My first instinct is the thought — sheesh, I would never have gotten away with that!  My second thought, almost immediately following, is — it’s okay, he’s just expressing himself.  That parental whiplash can get exhausting.

As my son grows into childhood, I am learning to balance those id (dear old Dad) and super ego (Mr. Rogers) reactions, seeing them for what they are — two ends of the parenting spectrum.  As much as I love my Dad, his authoritarian ways will never be a perfect fit for my parenting.  And as wise and patient as Mr. Rogers was, I will never achieve his zen presence around children.

The best I can hope for and try to achieve is integration of my parenting id and super ego — that elusive thing called balance.  A little angel and a little devil, a little Da and a little Mr. Rogers.  Ha!  This is what I strive for in my mothering.  But make no mistake, it’s hard and a daily challenge. Some days I get it just right and other days I fail miserably.  Most days I fail at some parenting challenge.  Given that it’s a 24/7 kind of gig, though, that’s bound to happen.

Who are your parental id and super ego symbols?  What are the little voices inside your head telling you as you parent?  Please share, so I feel less awkward with this mini Fred Rogers on my shoulder.  

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