First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Duly Noted

A couple of mornings ago,  before school, my daughter is writing in her diary. I take a peek because I'm curious and often she keeps it pretty secret. It's got a little lock and everything. Usually it has things in it like a portrait of herself with her name under it and on the top of the page the musing,  "I love me."  Or one whole page covered corner to corner by the lone exclamation, "My brother is CRAZY!"

I take a lot of peeks. She leaves the key around. Something about unlocking that little pink diary to read it feels oh so right and so wrong simultaneously. I blame the NSA.

On this particular day in question, she has drawn a picture of a flower, dated it June 11, and written a caption above the picture that says "It is winter."

I say, " Hey honey that's pretty intriguing, writing it is winter over a picture like that. Very creative." She says, " No but it's not that."
I say, "Ok honey, I just think it's cool is all."
"No it's not what that says though." She replies.
"Ok, well, even if you didn't mean it, I still think it's neat. Sometimes mistakes turn out to be really--"
She collapses to her knees like a pocket James Brown and screeches, "Noooooo!  It's not THAT!" And then buries her face in her hands. Hardest working tantrum thrower in show business. Godfather of soul devouring outrage.  It's early so I get mad. I slam what ever it is I'm holding (hair brush? lunch box? Monkey's Paw?) down on the dining room table, spill some water and bark, "No! Why are you yelling at me! Stop it!" I pick her up and put her down on her feet and send her to her room. She comes down and we talk about communication. She says sorry, I say sorry, and we go to school. I never find out what happened and we don't really talk about it again. At home later that afternoon, she writes this and hands it to me:
It reads, "Dear daddy, I love you. I Love You! Happy Father's Day.  I hope it's fun. Me and Pumpkin Man did the best we could at listening. Thank You.


I immediately scoop her up in my arms and squeeze her and cover her face in kisses and babble about how wonderful she and her brother are (You like how she threw him in there for good measure?) and how much I love them. Emotionally evicerated, my head swims from lack of blood and I have to sit down and put it between my knees where I've cleverly hidden a bourbon. Some bourbon. A liter of bourbon.

-----------------------------------------

When you're with them every day, all day, you see the best of them and the worst. The thing is, they see the same of you. You can't help it.

A lot of parenting advice boils down to being even tempered. Don't get too high or too low. Don't yell or freak out or get too excited. Be calm and cool at all times. Walk away, take a time-out, breathe deep and consult your higher power (Mine's a chicken burrito. With guac!)

You know, just don't react with any sort of emotional extreme to actions taken by the people you are biologically programmed to love more than life itself. Easy Peasy. When you're kid wins the race, fucks up at school, performs an act of kindness, lathes the cat, poops in the potty for the first time, etc, don't over emote. Just stay on an even keel. That parenting philosophy, with the notable exception of gender roles, hasn't really changed all that much from the 1950's archetype. Just knock the bowl of your Father Know's Best pipe with the heel of your hand, and tousle their hair/give them a stern talking too, and go back to your twitter feed. The truth is, we don't do that. Not every time. The truth is, some of us have called our toddlers fucking assholes when they're acting like fucking assholes or squealed like Bieberites at the Bieber ice cream smorgasbord jamboree and hair combing expo when they nail the landing in gymnastics. It's natural. We feel passion for these little genius/assholes.  The truth is, to remain as even tempered as we're supposed to all the time, that pipe bowl has to be loaded with sociopathic tendencies and opium.

The thing is, they bubble with potential, our kids.That means the potential to be almost anything. Anything doesn't just mean astronaut or president. It means junkie or murderer or lobbyist. They are human, they are imperfect. Their potential is near limitless And as parents, we are the same. Imperfect. More so, maybe. We've had longer to work on our imperfections.  And when you spend countless hours with tiny beings who are just learning the world, those imperfections come to bare. Yours rub against theirs and it results in days of too much yelling, too many tears, too much guilt, too much pride. It happens. What're you gonna do? We love them on a cellular level. That kind of passion is sure to lead to some amount of ill. I mean, have you seen humans?

I strive for even tempered. I really do. But I'm a man of loud voice and large opinion. So my kids know when I'm angry. They also know when I'm happy or proud or content or silly or gassy. Especially gassy. They know it all. In return so do I. It's not so bad, knowing when they're sad and when they're happy. Knowing for sure. Makes thing a little less complicated. Sometimes. Other times it makes getting ready for school in the morning sound like the Red Wedding.

And they test the even temper. They probe it with whines placed just so or negative responses to reasonable requests. They tap tap tap on the wall of my pleasant detachment with psychological ball peen hammers until the wall cracks and I can feel my blood pressure behind my eyes and I'm pretty sure my nose and left ear are bleeding freely. Then their are the times when my better nature wins out and no matter how the they probe and poke and tap and claw, I hold firm. I'm usually pretty proud of myself when that happens. Glassy eyed and exhausted, but proud.

What I hope (What else can I do?) is that in the tumult of a household full of passion and opinion (and gas) that they find themselves unafraid of their emotions. That as they get older they can feel and express themselves openly with just enough restraint to not get arrested. Let me add, just for posterity, that they really do listen well. Most times.

HM

P.S. Happy Father's Day and stuff.

17 comments:

  1. That was a beautiful post about fatherhood from a Dad's point of view!

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  2. I don't care if the NSA finds out, I have to say it: you speak the truth. And that's fucking awesome.

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    1. From the shadow of my paper plate face. Thanks man.

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  3. Hmmm, that opium idea sounds pretty appealing to me. 21 years of this craziness, and I never even thought of it.

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    1. Look at that. Still learning new things about parenting even now.

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  4. Missed reading you.You always had me at Zamboni driver. Love the post, and it's so true. Even keel. I mean, good theories, but in reality even keel doesn't seem to be my thing. I'm much better with guacamole and alcohol. You will be giving lectures on this, right? Let me know when you make it through my town...

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  5. Replies
    1. See? That's all I was looking for. Thanks SL

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  6. Perfection in a post!

    Love the "little genius/assholes" line. My husband referred to our sons as "little dicks" IN FRONT OF our three young daughters the other day, and then said: "Did I just say that out loud?" They all assured him that he had.

    We strive for detachment and we fail and we try again. And the kids get some healthy doses of messy reality every single day. Lucky them!

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  7. Good good good good good good good good post. So good.

    You could be describing so many days in my house, where I pingpong from crabby irritated ill-tempered Dad to oh-so-grateful-for-my-precious-snowflake-daughter Dad within minutes.

    You're an awfully good writer, you know.

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    1. O, you. Imagine how it must be to have to navigate the weather patterns of the loud, smelly giants that live with you every day? That's being a kid.

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  8. Been all those places. It seems like it must be a good idea to let them know when you're angry or happy or whatever. Why not? Godfather of soul-devouring outrage. Nice.

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    1. I think the idea is that they learn to handle life on an even keel by watching you do so. I don't know.

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  9. That is such a freakin profound post. I think I am going to go read it again for good measure now. Bravo. Happy belated Father's Day HM.

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