Good Enough Is Good. Enough.

September 28, 2010 in Fatherhood Insights  

Good Enough Is Good. Enough.

I’ve been a father for four years. I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. Everyone I know that has children has told me, “this age… it’s the hardest time.” I’m still in it so all I know is it’s hard now. Hardest on patience, on time, sleep and most of all on the marriage. And this is where I begin.

Two weeks ago, as of this writing, my divorce was made final. My wife of seven years decided she could no longer do it. Without getting into the details of our breakdown, I’ll just say there wasn’t anything serious or damaging – no infidelity, no abuse, no drug addiction… nothing that dramatic.

Our relationship was just broken. I wanted to work it out, she did not. We were tired, financially strained, and our friendship was nowhere to be found.

Some Things Remain…

Now I’m a single dad with joint custody. My kids are with me Monday through Wednesday and alternating Thursdays and Saturdays (confused? I know, right?). Surprisingly, not much has changed in the routine. We still play games, color, go for walks and I try to maintain my confusing role in endlessly-changing pretend narratives scripted by a power hungry man-child (my 4 year old son). We eat dinner, they get a bath, I tell some stories and they hit the sack.

Every night this is what happens. This is also what happened before “the breakup” (as my son calls it, frequently with tears).

What has changed is that every step of the way I am without my partner. I have no team member. Nobody to balance the “play with us” while dinner is being made (because dinner needs to be made). No one to help remember the medicine, help get the bedtime bottle warmed up, brush teeth for one child while I make sure the other gets her pull-ups and pj’s on before she pees on the carpet.

I have to do it all. And it f!cking sucks. I will say that I’m capable and the job gets done, but it’s not pretty.

The Suicide Hours

I get to be with my kids during the hardest time of the day. My own mom (who raised four sons) calls the time between 4pm and bedtime “the suicide hours” and it’s no joke. Kids are tired, hungry, they’ve been at preschool and with babysitters all day. They may wake up in one house and go to bed in another.

This is DEFCON 5, people.

Dad is tired and trying to not burn dinner and answer 137 questions and guess what… we are going to be lucky if we get through it without any barking, mumbling f-bombs, or stepping on sharp toys while trying to find a crying little girl her stuffed tiger (“no daddy not that one.. .the OTHER tiger”).

I’m going to screw this up. I’m going to yell at my kids. I’m going to be impatient and maybe even make one cry from drying their hair too aggressively. By the time I shut the door and say goodnight, I’m thinking to myself: “I’m not doing good enough. I’m totally screwing it up.”

How To Win This

And so here it is… As my counselor recently pointed out (and if you are going through divorce I recommend losing the pride and seeing someone to help you cope):

“Your ‘good enough’ is sometimes just good enough and that’s okay.”

If you think you have to be awesome all the time you are setting yourself up for failure (and whiskey; and cheap whiskey at that). There is nobody on the planet that can do all the things a parent has to do with a partner, let alone by yourself, and think it will be done with humor, grace and smiles all the time. Some days you’ll be lucky if it’s even that way 50% of the time.

And this is how I know my ‘good enough’ is good enough. No matter what I do wrong, at some point in the evening my son will still say, “Dad I just love you. You’re the best”. To which I humbly reply, “Thanks bud, I love you too.”

Kids are amazing at loving you back despite your faults. They live in the moment and as long as you’re not crazy or really blowing it in a serious/illegal way, they just want to know that you are there no matter what.

And so that is what I do. Be there no matter what, be honest, be as present as possible, apologize when I need to and always always always tell them something you like about them.

Gotta go. Someone is totally peeing on the bathroom floor.

About The Author: Courtney Stubbert (@getpunched) is an insightful, capable, and extremely hilarious father of two. He’s an amazing graphic designer and has some killer shirts you should check out at www.ThisYearsModel.net. Support The Cause!

Please Comment & Add Your Voice!

Chase September 28, 2010 at 8:33 am

Courtney, I’m in awe of your… of you! You’re very brave.

Also, I’m totally sorry about the bathroom floor. My bad.

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Steve September 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

Courtney,
It takes courage to be real about the stuff in our lives. Even in your pain, you’ve tried to keep the important things at the top of your list. Good enough works for me…
Steve

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melvillain September 28, 2010 at 9:15 am

Courtney,
It’s nice to get to know you beyond 140 characters. I don’t have kids, but I’m also going through a divorce after seven years of marriage. You’re a superhero, man. I can’t imagine having to go through a divorce and take care of two young ones. One day, you’re kids will thank you for “good enough”. Keep it up!

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Andy September 28, 2010 at 9:18 am

Courtney is a father among fathers! Carry on.

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Wayne Toshikazu September 28, 2010 at 9:28 am

Great post: heartbreaking and yet still very hopeful all at the same time.

Thanks for putting yourself out there, Courtney. Hang in there…

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Eric September 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

Good stuff Court! Most guys wouldn’t have the balls to post half the stuff you did… so thanks man!

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Eric September 28, 2010 at 9:39 am

My friend Frank has 4 kids. The oldest two are in college, and are absolutely awesome. The younger two are still, well, young. But they seem to be headed in the right direction.

Frank once told me “you don’t have to be a great parent. Just a good one.”

That made me feel better. Besides, any dad who steps of to the plate and does dad stuff these days is gooder than good.

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Rachel September 28, 2010 at 9:55 am

I can’t really think what to say except, thanks. I have two kids myself and am going through a divorce. I am always second guessing myself, am I doing enough, saying the right things, what am I doing to screw them up even more…reading stuff like this helps to calm those fears. Just wrote a blog about it myself, seems to help when I write it all down.

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Chuck Spidell September 28, 2010 at 9:58 am

I’m a father of two boys (four years / four months) and can relate to the “the suicide hours.” It’s a little crazy when both boys skip their naps and decide that sleep is for wimps. This is when you’re going to master the art and skill of distraction and patience. Just do your best and your children will love you either way.

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Samuel September 28, 2010 at 10:16 am

Thanks for the well written, insightful, and courageous post. It reminded me of something this friend of mine once said. She does early childhood education parenting education with parents in the justice system. As you might imagine, she runs across some real winners in the parenting realm.

She once told me that a parent has to successfully meet their child’s needs only 20% of the time for the child to maintain a secure bond and attachment with the parent. Our kids will forgive us for up to an 80% failure rate. I try to keep this in mind when I’m screwing up with my kids. It helps.

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Metroknow September 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

Thank you for sharing this. I’m a father of two young children (now 6 and 4), and I’m lucky in our marriage in that we have so far been able to navigate through it without the wheels coming off. Even with two of us working as a team and having the same set of priorities for the kids, it at times feels nearly impossible to stay sane – so I can only imagine how tough it can be. BTW we call that period during the day the Witching hour – clearly a common thread amongst parents.

Thanks again – this was a really meaningful post that hits home on many levels. Very good luck to you.

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Courtney September 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for the kind words and feedback. It’s good to hear other people having similar thoughts and experiences.

For the record, last night was all smiles and patience. Everyone slept through the night even. Someone might just be messing with me but I’ll take it cause the good nights give you juice for the bad ones.

Post-divorce fog settles heavily at times but I can feel it starting to clear around the house. So for everyone dealing with that little party, time is your friend for sure. And just like with parenting in general (aka “Cat Herding”) you gotta take the relationship stuff one day at a time as well. Otherwise you’ll end up with a hang-over and an embarrassing alibi you’ll spend the rest of your life hiding from the kids.

As Chase always says when you leave his party, “Make good choices!”

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Fourcookies September 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Hang in there. Being a dad (single or otherwise) is one of the best things in this world. I am lucky enough to have a wife of 11 years that is a teammate and we both are in the same corner. Still as others have said it is hard even with two of you working together. Do your best and realize that others are going through the exact same thing. I totally agree with the idea of a counselor as well. I broke down a couple years ago after going through a couple layoffs at jobs (within 4 months of each other) and saw one. Such a great help.

Thanks for this blog post and keep up the good work.

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Matt September 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Thanks for this, Courtney. Those are good words for a perfectionist, like me, who constantly sees himself falling short as a dad.

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Tawni September 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Wow. I love you Courtney. I know I’m not a dad, but still…

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Dan September 29, 2010 at 7:55 am

I cannot imagine being in your position. I have a 11 yr old daughter, 2 yr old son, and 9 month old daughter. My 11 yr old is from a past relationship, so I don’t always have her, and my wife isn’t always home and has to work late often, so I have been there. One’s in a high chair, the other is begging for a snack because you aren’t getting dinner done quick enough, and his crying causes the other to cry. It can get crazy. And bath time, forget it.

Hang in there, man. I really admire you writing this for the world to see. There are times I wish I could do the same but lack the guts to do so. Best of luck, you seem like a great guy, children are resilient and smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. They will realize your efforts and love you for it.

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Cheryl September 29, 2010 at 10:07 am

I love you Courtney Stubbert!!

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Seattledad (Luke, I am Your Father) September 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I just tweeted yesterday that ‘Chaos reigns between 5 and 8 pm.’ So true, and I can see why your mom called them the suicide hours. I can’t imagine doing this alone either.

Great post.

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Greg September 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

We’re all trying to be the best dads we can be (otherwise we probably wouldn’t even be on this site). But, you’re right Courtney, we’re not going to be perfect. As much as I hate to say it, being good enough is as best as it gets on many days. And, as much as we might try motivate our kids, they aren’t going to be perfect either. Many of us have a tough time coming to terms with that. We want them to excel. We struggle when they don’t. Maybe that’s why “The Good Enough Child” was a best-seller.

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Chase September 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Greg, you make me think of something here… I don’t think any of us naturally come from the “it’s ok to be good enough and just survive this evening” place about fatherhood… I mean, ours is the culture of “7 habits of highly successful people,” “Be your best,” “be the best you,” “Your best life now,” “win friends and influence people,” “Kick ass and take names,” etc.

We’re not trained and brought up in the, “it’s tough, and you’re just barely going to make it” kind of message.

I, for one, was super encouraged to be great, to succeed in everything, etc. Which is where many of us come from (thanks dads :) ). And we bring this kind of mentality into all the other parts of our life: career, car driving, watching sports, etc. So it’s natural to bring this man-kind of confidence and success-driven focus to our parenting… and end up cracked because we held on to our ability to succeed too tight.

There’s more to this, must… un… pack… it… later.

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Greg October 1, 2010 at 6:14 am

Chase, you’re so right. Looking forward to more discussion on this… later.

Keith Zafren December 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

I wonder if being a good dad is in fact what kids experience as being a great dad. I am stunningly imperfect in my fathering. And yet my kids think I’m the greatest dad they can have (thankfully, they don’t really have anyone else to compare me to). I wonder if truly loving our kids, as the dads (and moms) on Father Apprentice clearly do, isn’t what qualifies us as being truly great dads. And isn’t it okay to use that terminology? It doesn’t mean we are super heroes. It just means we deeply love our kids and have cultivated some parenting skills (or are doing so presently) that help us live that love out in meaningful and practical ways.
I suppose I don’t see what’s wrong with shooting for more than just being a good enough dad, knowing I’ll never be perfect, not even great lots of the time. But I think I would rather shoot for greatness, humbly and honestly, and fall short (and admit it) then shoot for just being good enough and attain only that.
Not criticizing anything or anyone’s perspective here, just thinking out loud.
Thanks to you, Chase, and Courtney for your great stuff here.

Jess October 2, 2010 at 7:10 am

This is a great post. As a single mom myself it’s comforting to hear this from “the other side.” ( not that I’m taking comfort in your struggles :)) But really, I think it’s a great place to be when all you want to do is love and care for your kids. I don’t know that it gets any easier but you pick up kicks and tricks along the way. Thanks for writing this and reminding me of what is really important about parenting!

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Courtney October 5, 2010 at 12:30 am

Jess,
Funny you should mention the ‘great place’. Recently I’ve noticed myself being connected to my kids in a way that I was not before the divorce. The fact that I have to do so much on my own around the house has forced me to be tuned into everything about them. When you have a partner, things can be easier, you share the load and knowledge. I don’t know how many times I had to be told of someones status: be it sickness, breaking in a tooth or who broke what. Now I’m the one that has to know everything, and as tiring as it is I feel the bond between myself and the monsters in a way I didn’t know I could.

Weird/Awesome.

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Toni October 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I love you….I’m always available to babysit ya know :)

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Paul October 6, 2010 at 6:33 am

The level of vulnerability in Courtney’s post as well as the discussion thread is refreshing. Chase, seems like you are in the midst of “pulling it off”. Like Courtney, I also have a 4 yr old and an almost 2-year old. I understand the “suicide hours” in the evening and also, those dead of night hours when the occasional illness, teeth cutting, bad dreaming etc require the culmination of all self controlled, non-freak out bit of restraint that God may have graced us with. If 5-8pm are the suicide hours, maybe these hours of 1-4am may be aptly labeled the “homicide hours”. Having to navigate these alone represent a fathering demand of epic proportions. Good enough in these times may very well equal merely…well…alive. My suggestion to you my fellow suicide/homicide resistor can be summed up in one word…community.

Community = sanity. Our particular culture seems to struggle to “do” this well as of late. However, in my experience and observation, this is the great hope for well rounded and healthy kids AND parents.
This post is already too long, sorry for that, but hopefully this rambling contributes to something…

Much love to my fellow fathers…

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Alan October 7, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Courtney,
Great post! It was the real stuff that I myself am not man enough to express so clearly and without holding back.

Chase,
Love this father apprentice gig. Keep it up

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Mindy November 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Hi, Courtney–I’m an old friend of a friend and happened upon this blog and saw your name. Bummed to hear about the divorce. Inspired to hear your dad stories. And I know how much you love your kiddos; very evident. Take it day by day, man–Mindy

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peter November 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Damn, that was real and honest. Well done. My favorite part was, “…or stepping on sharp toys while trying to find a crying little girl her stuffed tiger (“no daddy not that one.. .the OTHER tiger”). Perfect.

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Caleb December 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

This was awesome. PBH’s blog led me here. So well written and raw and humble, I love it.

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Jennie December 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

I love you and your sweet kids…your are such a great father, your kids adore you! Keep writing, I really appreciate your honesty. I’m just barely good enough a lot of the time, and its nice to know I’m not alone.

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Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt April 27, 2014 at 12:20 am

A blogger buddy of mine just shared this post and I just wanted to say how awesome I think you are Courtney. I’d love to read more about how you’re getting on now a few years later!

My brother split up from his girlfriend 10 months after their twin boys were born (it was the other way round actually). They’ve tried to work things out over the years but decided to stay apart. It’s been HARD for my brother… but 10 years on, everyone is still surviving.

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