I lost my temper this weekend.
Our kids were being especially challenging. Refusing to eat any food option for dinner, nearly hitting the baby with their feet/legs from constant rolling around/gymnastics across the living room, and an answer for absolutely everything to counter any suggestion mom and dad may have.
At one point, a small glimmer of hope as we tried to get dinner ready. One of our daughters took it upon herself to play waitress, going around and asking everyone, pen in hand, what everyone wanted. It kept her busy, she was enjoying it and it gave us the time Meg and I needed to try and just get something done in the kitchen.
Until she asked her big brother what he would like to eat.
She tried again to take his ‘order.’
One more time to nothing and I finally shouted from the kitchen, “Can you please answer her?!”
“I don’t want anything to eat!” he angrily shouted back.
“It’s just pretend!” I retorted. “Just pretend what you want to eat!”
Upside down in a half somersault, half cartwheel, he angrily yelled “I don’t know how to pretend.”
Sidenote: this is a blatant lie, as he’s constantly creating stories on paper, making creations from the great beyond with LEGOs and often overheard with elaborate action figure set ups and scenarios from his bedroom.
So the angry response of “I don’t know how to pretend” set me off. I yelled. I told him if he didn’t know how to pretend that maybe he didn’t need his art supplies, maybe he didn’t need his action figures, or his LEGOs, or any of the other countless things for pretend that he says he doesn’t know how to do.
I was frustrated. I was angry. Then Meg intervened telling not just he, but I too, that a time out was needed. So we went to our respective rooms to cool off. Which was needed. By both of us – the seven year old AND the 39 year old.
The kids aren’t the only ones who can head down that slippery slope of things that can’t be taken back. It’s incredibly easy for all of us, adults included, to fall down that incline and be forced to live with what comes out on the way down. I’m very appreciative for the foresight my wife had to know he and I were both heading down that slope and needed to it pause and clear our heads. Incredibly grateful.
A few minutes later, as I sat in a room reflecting on my reaction, there was a knock at the door. In he came, giving me a big hug and telling me he was sorry. We both sat down on the bed and I told him I was sorry too. I shouldn’t have gotten as angry as I did. I shouldn’t have said the things I did. It wasn’t right. I was frustrated, but it didn’t make it right. He tried to take the blame “It’s my fault, Daddy.” and I was quick to correct him that it wasn’t. It was mine.
No matter how frustrated he or I may get it, it doesn’t give us the right to become that angry and talk the way we did to each other. The only one who can control what I say, how angry I get, and the words I use to react with, is me. The same goes for him. I made sure to tell him that. I was frustrated, because he was being a bit of a jerk to his sister, but that still didn’t warrant my reaction. Again, I apologized, and we tried to start anew, a lesson hopefully learned.
In both my younger days, as well as my younger parent days (wide-eyed, idealistic, and looking at what parenthood would be like very differently than how parenthood truly is) I just pictured a sit down, talk ala any 50s-80s family sitcom (or 30s-40s Andy Hardy movie) where parent knows exactly what to say to quell the problem, teach the lesson, and save the day.
Life isn’t like that. I rarely know what to say in the moment and find myself in a state of improvisation, trying to piece together the balance of rationale and words to try and explain what went wrong and how we can make make it better. It’s never the perfect on-screen moment I picture in my naive youth.
But honestly, it’s something. Even if we parents are just making it up as we go each day, running from one fire to the next, if we’re trying, if we’re doing our best, letting ourselves learn from our mistakes, and admitting that we too are capable of mistakes, then maybe we might just succeed in raising these little folks to become good people.
We’re not perfect. Maybe we don’t need to be. We’re just flawed humans like everybody else, trying to evolve, to grow, to become better people. And maybe being willing to admit that to our kids can help them grow too.
When was the last time you were excited? I mean really, really excited? Not ‘hey, free coffee’ excited, but I mean, through the roof, all-consuming excited?
Because I don’t think I really have.
It came to my attention through, of all things, hockey.
You see, my hometown in just the past few years, has become home to an AHL team. While I’m not a sports person, I think it’s been a big boost for the area and many of the venues contained within. And it seems to bring people together. Like, really brings people together, en masse as they cheer on their team. I mean, for some, it’s like a ritual. They are at every game, they wear the paraphernalia, they know the players. It’s all-in. So there’s a lot of people enjoying it, which is great – for them, for the organizers, for the entire area.
And as the team progressed in their quest for titles or championships, or however it’s referred to (Meg often shakes her head at me for not really having any grasp of these things), I saw people reaching a level of excitability at the mere mention of the team’s name that I thought they would burst.
From social media, to news broadcasts, standing in line a day or so ahead of time, they were, as I say all-in like nothing I’ve ever seen.
And as I watched it all, I realized that aside from the birth of my son and getting married, I can’t think of too many other moments where I’ve been bursting from the gut excited. In fact, Meg will tell you that I was more nervous than excited on our wedding day. So let’s bring it down to the birth of our son.
So what’s going on? Is there something inherently off in me that I don’t seem to ever get that level of excited about things?
Of course, when I say never felt this way, I’m talking about adult-Dave. I’m sure, almost positive that as a child I felt that level of excitement. Heck, I see it in our little guy at something as small as getting to watch a cartoon he asks for, putting his hands together, a grin from ear to ear, looking like he’s about to leap off the ground shouting “goody! goody!” or “oh boy! oh boy!”
I don’t want him to lose that. The past month of seeing the excitement on the people of my hometown when it comes to their beloved hockey team shows me there’s many out there who haven’t.
So where and when did I? At what point did ‘oh boy! oh boy!,’ full of excitement Dave of youth become the ‘huh. neat.’ or ‘that’s pretty interesting’ Dave that seems to be so detached from the world at times that nothing ever rises to that level of exuberance any more.
I’d like to find him again. I’d like my son to meet him. But honestly, I have no idea where to start looking.