It's hard to tell whether you're a good parent or a bad parent.
If my kid is happy today, does that mean that I've been a good dad today? What if I snapped at her and she cried? That's probably bad parenting.
Every once in a while you get some really good evidence though. Sometimes your kid literally draws a picture letting you know what kind of impact you're making. Although Daisy won't win any awards for penmanship or artistry, I think her work here speaks volumes. Here's the first piece of paper I found Friday in a pile of her school stuff:
(With spelling and punctuation corrections, here's what it says: My family is great. My mom likes to cook. My dad likes to eat. I like to sing! That is my family.)
Out of all the things she could have said about her dad, she chose, "My dad likes to eat." The fact that that sentence comes right AFTER "My mom likes to cook" is particularly damning. You can almost hear Daisy's school teacher clucking disapprovingly as she reads about our unenlightened family. I'd pay big money to insert a sentence in there saying, "AND MY DAD ALSO DOES ALL OF THE DAMN DISHES EVERY NIGHT, SO DON'T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE HIM, HARPY."
I flipped over the paper and found this:
(With spelling and punctuation corrections, here's what it says: Some other things my family likes to do is me dance, my mom hug me, my dad run. My family is great!)
0 for 2.
At this point images of our idyllic home life begin to crystallize in your mind. You can visualize Daisy singing and dancing through the hallways, with Hank closely following behind her, dispensing both hugs and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It's Julia Child meets The Sound of Music....but where's Mike? Oh, he's out jogging.
Just to drive the point home, here's the picture that accompanied these tiny damning essays:
On the top left you can see Daisy singing her sweet heart out. Look, notes! And on the bottom right, there's dear Hank, long torso and all, deftly cooking up a variety of Daisy's favorite foods.
Then, on the top right you can see Daisy and Hank hugging! All that's missing is the little hearts surrounding their embrace. Oh, but there I am too! Look, I'm running by! Those little circles all over me? Those, apparently, are giant sweat puddles.
And there I am again on the lower left! I'm a remorseless eating machine! I'm a disembodied, five-fingered, opposable-thumb-less hand, desperately substituting food for love. I think I'm holding a fork, but maybe I'm just eating a scrawny chicken foot. That would be just like me.
There's a lot that could be learned from this series of words and pictures. (I said "could", right? Ok, good)., Instead I chose to have this conversation.
Me: "My dad likes to eat"? Eating? That's my sentence? You get to sing, and mom gets to be helpful, but all I'm good for is eating?
Daisy: No, that's not ALL you're good for.
Me: Why is that my sentence then? How about "My dad is funny"?
Daisy: Well, do you like to eat?
Me: Yes, but EVERYONE in the family likes to eat.
Daisy. I didn't say that's the ONLY thing you like. But you agree that you do like to eat?
Daisy: Ok, then.