Our 7-year-old daughter marched a few steps ahead of us to the car, an exaggerated frown showing just how unhappy she was that we were leaving.
My exhausted wife looked at me, grinning as she said the words “best parents ever!”
Our youngest had spent much of the day at the Putnam County Fair, enjoying the rides and sampling the food. We’d decided to head back for maybe another hour that evening so she could get a little more use out of that all-you-can-ride wristband.
She bumped into a classmate there to go on rides with her. Before we knew it, that hour-long visit to the fair stretched to nearly three hours, getting on nearly every attraction short of the ones designed for infants. Along the way, she’d sampled a snow cone and a delicious milkshake.
We’d even let her stay up later than usual as she and her friend successfully convinced us we had time for “one more ride.”
When we enforced that after their turn on the spinning bears, we were anything but the best parents ever. She was sad. She was angry. She was mad at us for putting an end to the fun.
Every parent has had that moment in life when you have to be the fun-ender. Perhaps there’s something else on your schedule next. Maybe you know they’ll have even more fun there. Sometimes your parental senses just tell you it’s time to go because your child is starting to get crabby, and you don’t want the public to see them in their full-crab mode.
Whatever the reason, you’re forced to take a deep breath and be the adult. You love seeing them having fun, but you also know you have to be responsible with the children in your care.
The worst part about the best day of a child’s life is that day has to end sometime.
It’s such a struggle when you stop the good times. Your child immediately swings on the pendulum of happiness to a decidedly dark place. I haven’t ever had a child say, “You know, Dad, you bring up some good points. It would be wise if we stopped this enjoyable activity now.” I have heard a child say, “You’re the worst dad in the world,” and various versions of how I’d ruined their lives.
I’ve also said some nonsensical things in return. It’s hard when you’ve put together your kid’s dream day, only to have them mad at you at the end. I’ve made claims that we’ll never do another fun thing again or that I won’t take them out in public again.
Fortunately, I’ll mutter these things in a tone only heard by other fathers. You see other men facing the same crisis look over at you and nod, as if to try to encourage you as a dad.
I’ve checked with my older children. They’re happy to say, outside that moment, that I’m not the worst dad in the world, nor have I truly ruined their lives. In most cases, they only remember how perfect that day was and not how it came to an end.
Despite my wife’s intended sarcasm, I’d say we’re living up to being the “best parents ever.” We’re still striving for enjoyable adventures for them even though we know we’ll be the villains by the end.
And we’ll keep doing it willingly, time after time, because we crave those moments of happiness that come right before the end. That’s what we’ll remember.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a divison of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.