As a parent, I get almost daily reminders that my parents were superheroes without capes

OPINION: Trying to plan and execute a day of shuffling kids from points A through Z is often an exercise in futility and has me, again, appreciating my parents.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I have many positive realizations and epiphanies about how my parents raised me, even if I felt like some of their actions or rules were unreasonable at the moment. I find myself often defaulting to my parents’ responses to any number of things or to how my father would impart life lessons to me when trying to teach my kids something. Turns out, my parents were pretty wise.

I also realize that, as a parent now, my parents probably had absolutely no freakin’ clue what they were doing on any number of occasions, flying by the seat of their pants and winging it, hoping for the best possible outcome. And that sentence has absolutely no judgment in it whatsoever; I can’t think of too many endeavors that require more grace than parenting. I hope I’m not projecting here, but I feel like so much of being a parent is really just hoping things work out. Whether trying to get out of the door in the morning on time to getting kids to sleep at night, any single day can provide so many “Say what?” moments that you have to solve on the fly that it’s no wonder so many parents end their days with glasses of wine, doom scrolling on social media and drowning in “Law & Order: SVU” reruns. 

For instance, I have four children who currently attend three different schools, and in all the different versions of school available in the area. My daughter currently attends a private school in northern Virginia, two of my boys attend a language-immersion charter school in Washington, D.C., and my youngest son attends our neighborhood public school because they offer the services we need and have a pre-kindergarten (PK) program. One of the good things about being in Washington, D.C., is that many schools offer free PK programs starting at 3 years old. Anyway, so my four kids are in three different schools in two different legally defined jurisdictions.

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We are two adults who have to make this magic happen every single day. And we are not alone in this at all. This is life for so many parents. The amount of miles I put on my car per day is astounding. But also, the sheer amount of time I spend in the car every day is insane. And that’s just getting kids to and from school. 

My daughter plays volleyball. My boys play soccer. So between practice, games and the like, the entire week is spent jetsetting with a car all over this region depending on the sports season. If you ever wonder why your friends with multiple kids disappear from the streets, it’s not on purpose; it’s because we’re always in transit with snacks, juice and wi-fi dreaming about the sleep we’re going to get that night. Except nobody goes to sleep at a reasonable time because if you did, you’d have no time for yourself and have to pray that you see your friends in your dreams. Thank god for organizations like my wife’s,  District Motherhued, which specifically makes sure that moms have a social life as well as a mom life. 

It’s stuff like this that makes me think back to my childhood and how I never once questioned how my siblings and I (I grew up in a house with my three sisters) got to all of our games, practices, recitals, clubs, etc. I played sports year-round, was a Cub Scout and took music lessons, and I was just one kid. I never ONCE considered how much work my parents did just getting us from one day’s activities to the next. Granted, I grew up in Germany and because it was the 1980s, it was nothing for me to take public transportation by myself, even as young as 7 or 8 years old, and see myself to school and home. Without a cell phone or tracking device. The lives we lived in the ’80s and ’90s were truly wonders of self-sufficiency and survival training. 

But my parents did cart us all over and came to games, track meets, recitals, etc. when they could. My older sister ran track and cross country and played volleyball and basketball. I’m assuming my parents were at some of those games. As a kid, I was too self-interested to ever even think about how they managed to be present with so many of us and so many obligations from work to home life (and this was before Uber Eats and DoorDash; I remember eating cooked meals at the table for dinner most nights). I really have no idea how they made all of this work but somehow they did. 

And I guess I (we) are, too. Sure, I’m always more tired than I’d like to be, but my kids have interests and hobbies and it’s my job to find ways to ensure they get to see those things through. This means that my wife and I (and extended family, etc.) do what we can to make it work. I appreciate my parents for that; I don’t ever remember them telling me they couldn’t get me somewhere or that I couldn’t do a thing; my entire life was full of doing this or that and never having to concern myself with how I was going to get there … I was going to get there. I (continue to) owe my parents a debt of thanks for never letting me see how difficult that was. As a parent now, I see how much work and effort it takes. I’m sure they complained to each other as they figured out who would do what, but all I ever saw was me pulling up to the thing at the place with the people. 

(Some) parents really are superheroes. And not all superheroes wear capes. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get ready to go pick up two of my children from school. And then get another one. And perhaps a fourth. Wish me luck. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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