I was startled looking at the Target check-out belt: skateboard, knee- and elbow-pads, and pullup diapers, all for the same kid.

It terrifies me thinking of Jaden, my about-to-be-4-year-old, zipping around on a skateboard. But before you call the cops, I’ll point out that he’s made incredible progress on the scooter his Grandpa Ted gave him. And another parent told us her boys scooted around on their bellies for years, practicing for the harder stuff. Our plan is to let him have what he so badly desires, and monitor it closely. Our plans so often work out.

How could he be both refusing to complete potty training, in a sweetly reassuring babyish way, and demanding new advanced sports that terrified me as an older kid? Something about it doesn’t compute.

It reminds me of going upstairs to see what all the yelling was about, to find 7-year-old Shayla atop the bunk bed ladder, greedily watching her Kindle tablet while deftly kicking away her brother, who was trying to climb up the stairs. “This isn’t what I was thinking when I said you need to let Jaden watch that show with you.” She’s incredibly smart and sophisticated about so many concepts, but a complete baby about sharing.

I guess my mistake is in expecting some kind of internal coherence in our personalities., even though I know better. The same morning I’m finishing two challenging, cool projects with a lot of complex demands, I suddenly want to cry because I didn’t buy anything for the birthday party and I feel like a failure as a dad and a human being. It hardly seems fair to ask my kids to make more sense to me than I make to myself.

(Speaking of Bad Dads, we may be entering our Aylet Waldman phase of parenting. When a mom asked what the theme for Jaden’s birthday party would be, he decided on the spot. “Hot dogs.” Jaden will love it.)

I’ll try to be more patient with my little bundles of inconsistency. And with my kids too. Oh and, spoiler alert! If you see Jaden in the next couple days, don’t say anything. The little athlete is getting a skateboard for his birthday. The worst part is, at 4 he’ll probably be better at it than I ever was.