When we first got married, we decided that I would do the laundry. I was fine with that idea. But after two months of marriage, I realized I was never doing the laundry. My wife brought it up, wondering why I never did it. My response? I never got a chance to do it. Every time I turned around, she was doing another load of laundry, as often as once a week. That is excessive. You see, as time-saving bachelor, I bought enough underwear, socks, shirts and pants so that I had no need to laundry for an entire month. I had three full loads of laundry to do, once a month. After I finished, I went back to living the good life. I never did the laundry when we got married because I never ran out of socks and underwear. That never worked for her because she only had one week before she ran out.
But I think it's us backup parents that save the world. If our children never encountered an adult as helpless as us, they would never learn to take care of themselves. There is something beautiful about the way my ten-year-old takes charge of breakfast, lunches, and getting ready in the morning when my wife is gone. Or with the way my five-year-old gets to pick out some amazing outfits to wear to school. (That only sometimes works, because my ten-year-old will step in and nix some of the outfits he chooses.)
We are the ones that do the dirty work of missing appointments, forgetting to brush the kids teeth, having cereal for supper, and giving kids lots of free time because we never get them signed up for anything. And if we do sign them up, they still get lots of free time because we forget to take them. We teach our kids boundaries and putting other people's needs ahead of their own as we absolutely insist on privacy in the shower and to wait for the commercials during football. We help our kids learn the consequences of not putting things away as we have no memory of where anything is in the house. If they lose it, we don't know where to start looking and they're just out of luck.
We are at our best when the default parent is gone for the weekend. There is only one rule, don't make a bigger mess than you can clean up yourself. Because as the backup parent, there is no way we're cleaning it up for you. We carefully lose the instructions on how to make our meals, and then have McDonald or Papa John take care of us. The house and kitchen still becomes a wreck and then we flurry around before the default parent gets home to hide all the signs of our irresponsibility. We've been there when things fell apart. And amazingly, they don't fall apart.
We are backup parents because every kid needs a backup. They need a chance to fail, knowing that there is someone behind them that will help them get up. We know that tears are okay when things don't turn out, not something to be avoided at all costs. Being the backup means that our children are learning responsibility, experiencing consequences, and finding out what it means to take care of their own needs. They keep track of their own schedules and make sure we get them there on time. We carry our role with pride. As one backup parent to another, we rock.
Now, before you judge me for my pride in being a backup parent, this is satire. As a backup parent, sometimes I exaggerate a bit.
-John M Troyer
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