This morning, as I was throwing away an entire batch of truly crappy cookies, I realized that by simply trying a thing you can get a reputation for being good at it. I’m not necessarily a good cook, I’m just a guy who tries to cook *at all* and a lot of times it ends up being somewhere between good and great. Because it’s *food*, all it needs is some salt and fat and it’s probably gonna be just fine.

Everyone who has kids knows they’re on borrowed time. There are some parents who are actively involved in the day-to-day of their kids’ lives as adults, but those are very, very rare. There’s a period of a dozen years or so when we’ll still be trying to communicate with them as they slowly decide not to communicate with us. The years when we matter are numbered. After this it’s gonna be love affairs and chess matches or basketball games… we’re not gonna be what’s important.

I have no secret to parenting, some people think I’m a good father but that’s almost totally because I do it *at all*, which separates me from the vast swath of shitty fathers out there. I probably throw out more than my share of cookies, to extend the metaphor, and the rest of the time it’s just the basic stew or soup – something you can’t really screw up even if it’s not extraordinary.

But my son talks to me a lot. So does my daughter. And I’ve found that if I ask a question and then shut up for as long as possible – if I literally bite my tongue – then they’ll keep talking. No clarifications on my part, no follow-ups, nothing. The less I say, the more they talk.

And yes, the jokes, the jokes. My blog isn’t called “Seanrants” because I’m *very good at being silent*. I have almost no unexpressed thoughts, the louder and larger the audience, the better.

But this, the being-a-father, is something that’s really hard to explain. My blog was silent for about two years while I tried to wrap my head around having two children under four. My life has been rehearsal and performance, since I was very, very young, and that leads to a level of discipline and adjudication that’s almost military. I work towards a production, a thing is produced and then we look back and marvel or cringe at what we made. With kids, it’s not that. The show never actually *opens*.

And right now, it’s a tough patch because it feels like… Like all the cookies are crap. My kids are less happy now than they were three months ago, that’s a simple fact. And people go through periods where they are unhappy, periods of growth or struggle make almost everyone unhappy when they are in them. But I’m not doing anything to make it better.

My daughter has night-terrors, although I’m not exactly sure what that is so I’m not actually sure that’s what she has. She screams in her sleep a few times a night, sometimes more. And while there are nights when she doesn’t, odds are she will.

During the day, she’s gotten more and more likely to fall apart and throw a fit when something doesn’t go her way. It’s gotten to the point where her screaming and crying has ceased to mean anything to any of us, but it has a low-level impact of simply filling our day with expressed misery. All day, at any point, there’s a terrorist in our house willing to hold us all hostage with 110 dbs of screaming.

And my son is just unhappy. School is crap. It just is, it’s garbage – I can say that here because BELIEVE ME I would never say it in front of him. He goes to one of the best rated, highest scoring schools in the entire state of New York, and *none* of his teachers are gonna let the scores go down on their watch.

So every day, every kid in his class is on the verge of being in trouble. Just a constant stream of corrections and disciplinary measures, a constant harrangue of everything the kids are doing wrong. Yeah, we’ve talked to the teachers, yeah we’ve done what we could to help him feel good when he’s not at school, yeah we’ve organized super fun stuff for the weekends and after school. But even during the fun stuff, he’s thinking about the kids who get in trouble at school. It’s not even *him*, it’s other kids, but he has to constantly be around it.

I mean, this is not necessarily the New Normal, and that might be the only actual advice I’d have for parents with kids younger than mine. The shit they’re going through now *might* be who they’re becoming, but more than likely it’s just who they are *right now*, and it’s all gonna change in a month, six months, a year.

But… those cookies I threw away? I actually thought I was doing it right. I creamed the sugars and the butter, I added butterscotch chips and oatmeal, I KNOW HOW TO MAKE COOKIES fer chrissakes. And when they were done, everyone ate one… and a week later the other two and a half dozen were still sitting there.

When my kids talk about how unhappy they are with what they’re doing, I hold my tongue and then I say, “you gotta get through this and it’ll all work out. Believe me, you’ll get better at the stuff you’re struggling with and it’ll all work out.”

I just can’t feel that way as a dad. I can’t just let it happen. It feels like I’m just shrugging away the most important job I’ve ever had and I want to do something, I want to press, I want to run interference and change the world to be better *for them*.

But for now, in the same way that I bite my tongue when they talk, I sit on my hands. I ask them both, after I’ve been silent for as long as I can, “do you want me to try to help you fix this, or can you do it?” and they always say the same thing. “I can do it.”

With everything else in my life, if I just try a little harder it always works out better. But with this, I have to do what I’ve been barely able to do for most of my life. I have to do the most difficult thing, and probably the most important thing, that I can do as a dad. I have to trust in the strength of my babies.