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My daughter is sick. Her kindergarten class has a field trip to the pumpkin patch today.

She’s going to miss the trip.

Last month she was also sick. She missed her class’s field trip to the apple orchard.

Thanks to a couple of poorly timed fevers, Clara is missing the first two field trips of her educational journey.

I cannot describe how much this hurts my heart. I am beside myself. 

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I have a lot of things about parenting figured out. I know that may sound arrogant and nearsighted, but it’s true. Parenting isn’t easy, but it isn’t very hard, either.

And it’s joyous. Joyous on a daily basis. At least for me.

I suspect that a number of factors have allowed this to be the case:

  • A childhood spent as the oldest of five children (oftentimes serving as a substitute parent)
  • Sixteen years spent teaching elementary school
  • My previous experience raising a stepdaughter
  • The clear and rationale perspective that a life of incredibly difficult challenges has brought me
  • Most important: A wife who was also the oldest child in her family (don’t discount this asset) with more than a decade of teaching experience as well

Choose your spouse carefully. As my friend, Kim, says, it is the most important decision that you will ever make.

Elysha and I are also a couple of fairly relaxed, easy-going people who understand and live by the principles of divide and conquer, delegation, and strategic prioritization. Neither of us are control freaks. 

We are also nonconformists. It may surprise you to hear that about Elysha, but it’s true. She’s an undercover nonconformist, meaning she isn’t as blunt and stupid about it as me, but her nonconformity exists in abundance.

This is important, too.

Sometimes I think we hear parents whine about their kids or complain about the restrictions associated with parenting and start to believe it for ourselves. Get a group of parents together, and before long, they’ll start moaning about sleepless nights and the cost of diapers and the price of babysitting.

It’s easy to fall into this trap if you’re not careful. If you don’t assume that the world is a little crazy. If you lack perspective. If your self confidence is low. If you didn’t know what you were getting into when you decided to have kids. 

If you’re not a nonconformist.

These factors, I believe, have combined to provide me with the knowledge, wisdom, and fortitude to make good parenting decisions and raise my children without too many missteps or uncertainty.

Yes, it’s arrogant. But it’s true.

If you feel like I sound too arrogant, please refer to my 2014 list of flaws and shortcomings. It’s a long list. At least I’m balancing arrogance with humility.

But this situation with my daughter missing her first two kindergarten field trips due to illness… I find myself at a loss. My heart aches. I’m saddened beyond description. I have no solution.

Parenting has suddenly become impossible.

Actually, if it were up to me, I’d try to send her to school for the field trip, but my wife would never allow it, and rightfully so. We have already promised her a makeup trip to the pumpkin patch this weekend, but it won’t be the same, and I will always know it.

So will she.

And so I have a hole in my heart. I know that in the grand scheme of things, a field trip to an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch won’t make or break Clara’s life, but in this year, on this day, in this moment, these are enormous events for her.

Enormous opportunities that she is missing.

I experienced so many missed opportunities as a child. So much that I wanted to do but could not. As a result, I want something different for my children. Not a path free of struggle or strife, but a path wider than mine ever was. A path with a multitude of forks.

Forks to apple orchards and pumpkin patches, damn it.

As trite as it may seem, this is a problem for me. I can allow my children to cry it out in their cribs and sit in timeout and save for months for the toys  they want and get no dessert if they haven’t eaten their dinners, and I suffer no heartache whatsoever. No pain. I know that what I am doing is right.

But this… I’m going to think about her friends, riding the bus to a pumpkin patch, running around a field of round, orange orbs, and I’m going to be sad. Heartbroken, really. All day long. And probably longer. Probably a lot longer.

I suspect that Elysha will handle this better than me. I’ll lean on her today. Try to draw from her wisdom and her perspective.

Choose your spouse wisely.

But even the great Elysha Dicks will not be able to fill this hole in my heart.

This is when parenting is the hardest for me. Today will be a hard day for me. Joyous, still. But hard.