An important part of learning how to fly airplanes is learning how not to fly airplanes. We learn a lot from our fellow pilots; some lucky enough to have made bad decisions and still have their number of takeoffs equal the number of landings in their logbook, others not so much. A common thread in aircraft accidents is that the accident is usually preceded by a chain of bad decisions. Very rarely are accidents the result of some catastrophic, completely unavoidable failure or situation. No, it’s usually a series of bad decisions made by the crew. To the outside observer, when reviewing cockpit voice recorder transcripts, weather reports, etc, it usually seems obvious. We say out loud, “what were they thinking?”. To the crew at the time, it’s not so black and white.
The same can be said of parenting.
As a parent, I do dumb stuff all the time, and then crash and burn. And it’s usually because of a series of bad decisions that spiral into a gigantic meltdown, complete with screaming, kicking, tears, and occasionally food in an inconvenient and hard to clean place. My cockpit voice recorder transcripts would be laughable:
“Yeah I know they haven’t napped today, but I’ve just got to run into Target real quick. It won’t be bad.”
“I’ll be right back. Now, remember, just color on the paper”
“No I didn’t water down his juice…Yes I know it’s bedtime…why should I water down his juice?…Oh don’t be ridiculous honey.”
“We won’t need a diaper bag. We won’t be gone that long.”
“You want the cup without the lid?…You’re not going to spill it right?”
The imminent disaster is obvious in these cases. It’s like in a bad horror movie, where the girl is going into the abandoned warehouse in the middle of the night. Everyone knows to stay out of the warehouse except the idiot on the screen. Not much difference here. Two year old wants the big-girl cup without the lid? Sure, no problem, so long as she crosses her heart and promises that she won’t spill a drop. I’m sure nothing bad will happen.
To those of you who don’t have kids, I’m sure you’re thinking: “how stupid is this guy?” The answer is pretty damn stupid. But I’ll say this: kids are like kryptonite. They wear you out. They drain your ability to reason, think clearly, form complete sentences, and sleep. Suddenly what would normally seem like a horrible idea seems like a good idea if it will make them happy (read: shut them up).
I have this sinking feeling that this cycle of dumb decision/bad outcome never really ends.
Am I alone out there? How many other parents routinely set themselves up for disaster?