I don’t think I’m a success at much in life – not yet anyway. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for sympathy or reassuring words here – I’m more than comfortable in my own situation right now. I’m just being a realist.
I’m certainly not a financial success. Hell, my bank manager would probably tell you I’m a financial failure – though I’m reasonably confident that it won’t last forever. I wouldn’t say I’m successful in my career so far either. Sure, I think I’m good at my job – and I really enjoy it. But there are plenty of people of my age who have climbed higher, achieved more and done better. But again, I’m reasonably comfortable with that – there’s plenty of time yet to work on the old corporate ladder.
I’ve not been successful on the property ladder (as anyone who has visited our house will attest!), or successful at furthering my education – I think I might even be allergic to learning now…
The one thing I DO currently feel reasonably successful in is being a dad. I’m sure there’s plenty of time for that to change, crashing my expectations back down to earth with a bump. But right now, as I sit here today – father to an 8 month-old baby and a rapidly-approaching-4 year old – I don’t think I’ve done too badly at being a dad. But how could I possibly justify that?
All the other “disciplines” I listed above are fairly easy to measure the success of. Successful on the property ladder? You’ve got a property that’s big enough for your family and which you’re happy in. Successful in my career? I’d probably have a more impressive-sounding LinkedIn profile, or maybe some stocks and shares in some jazzy companies. Successful in finance? I’d almost certainly have a little more spare cash at the end of the month than I do today!
But success in parenting? How can you measure that – apart from waiting until they’ve moved out, healthy, wealthy and wise? I spend half of my day working out how to measure the effectiveness of what I do in my career – so I give this a fair bit of thought. And I think I’ve come up with an answer…
It might not work for everyone, but for me the sign that we’re successful parents can be measured with two easy-to-see factors:
Smiles and Laughter. Grins and giggles. Smirks and chuckles. You get the picture.
No matter how stressful my day, no matter how many trials you face in life, coming home to a house that is more often than not echoing with the sounds of laughter is all I need to know that we’re doing OK.
Most people will tell you that baby’s first smile, or first laugh, is one of the highlights of the early days of their development. But they’ll also say the same thing about the first steps, or the first meal, or any number of other firsts. But for me, these two moments (for both of my sons) have been the pinnacle of the entire parenthood process so far, and I can’t imagine anything else that could come along to beat them.
The good thing is, from the moment of those first smiles and laughs, both of my sons have never stopped doing it. Even in the biggest toddler-tantrum, or the most tired pre-bedtime grump, I know at least a dozen ways that I can get a smile and a laugh out of both of them – and I frequently put them in to practise. On the odd occasion that Robert has been sent to bed without a story, I’ve felt utterly miserable – and usually made every effort to get a smile out of him within minutes of his waking the next morning.
I’m sure there are plenty of psychologists, educational and developmental specialists or just plain know-it-alls who will tell me there are better measures of success in parenting, but as far as I’m concerned, a happy and contented child is the only proof I need right now. And if I feel successful at that, frankly, the rest of the “issues” I listed at the start of this post just melt away in to insignificance : )