Dad Post: This side of failure

I had all intentions of writing a post on beer tonight. I pulled out the original house beer (wild) did from when I was still living in limbo at my mom’s house after we moved back from Maine and version two which has sat for about a year and a half. I took notes, ratings the nine. I did all of this to try to take my mind off my Dr. Jekyll of child and as I sat thinking about what I could say my mind was clouded, a dark storm thunder head, by my wryly son.

The past couple of weeks, he’s been pushing my buttons worse than ever and I’ve put pressure on him to “improve” (ie, no iPad at the table, less sass, etc). That is until Friday when the boat was pushed from the harbor to the murky churning seas of toddler anger. The long and short of it is he’s very much like me – short-tempered, bull-headed, and unwavering will – put two of us in a room and toys will get tossed, tears will be shed, and voices will reach at the very edges of vocal rage. Thursday, he’s sick, needs attention snuggles me all day, doesn’t want me out of arm’s reach. Friday I go to work and we’ve already clocked one time out for hitting. Not ten minutes after I walk through the door he’s in it again. As we move through the weekend it becomes a battle zone where my wife – who had never been at the receiving end of Finn’s rage – found herself at the brink as well. Sunday was spent at Gary’s for a short visit with our return home devolving into a new timeout format (understandably difficult), a couple of hours working to cool heads, and Finn playing in his room by himself for the rest of the evening.

I say all of this not to complain to but to show. Before this weekend I felt we were doing everything right. Finn is (was?) a dream son: fantastically behaved, sweet, and while an instigator – he knew other’s limits (as well as his own). But now, sitting in bed writing this – I feel like I’ve lost. Our relationship crumbled, I feel like I’ve not only failed as a dad, but Finn, myself and it all.

I can only hope this is a spell due to being sick, or turning three in a month, or I’m not sure – to be honest, but I’ve got to hope. I can only hope that he’ll wake up not being a terror. Not pushing my face while putting on jammies or crying about which car seat he’s in or scratching my arms when he’s not listening – I don’t know where it all came in. It’s like a flood and we’re drowning. I soldiered on through the hour of failed 4-min timeouts and felt he was finally getting it, thought that it was sinking in the more we told him he had to play in his room, ate up all his dinner, unaided, and bathtime was a breeze (which is unusual) but when he accidentally poked my face when I put on his jammies and he kept doing it while laughing and then stopping to only pick up a toy to then bang it into my glasses I couldn’t take it anymore. Rudolph went flying.

He went to sleep in a blink, so maybe there will be light. More days ahead and a calmer head must prevail.

Beer next time, cheers.

Why I’m A Bad Father

You start at zero, basically. For those old enough to either have children or really appreciate what it’s like to have them you understand. No one really knows what the hell they are doing, and if they say they do – they are lying. I’ve felt like running down a too-steep hill – that clomping almost-falling barely catching yourself kind of way – for the first year. Just when you feel like you have a remote semblance of understanding, a new milestone is reached and the proverbial wrench comes wading in.
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Thing is, I’m not a terribly spectacular dad. We don’t do flash cards, or spend an hour here or there hammering lessons on what color a horse is versus a zebra. I don’t push him to speak to me, and usually find myself mumbling whatever nonsense back to him. We speak in fart noises and “mab mab mab”s. Fun cut with the danger of bodily harm is routine.

But I do care for my son. I watch what he eats. I make sure he’s as safe as possible while still being adventitious. We go on walks, and allow him to find his own fun at the park. We learn how to pick up after ourselves, and how to treat animals. I like to have fun and play, but also drive a hard-line when it comes to doing things he shouldn’t (stay out of the GD cat water). So while I’m not force feeding him lessons on the growth patterns of butterflies, or hung up on his inability to speak, we find and work out other ways to progress. He’s walking and running and playing on his own, puts things away when he’s done, likes to read (so much as he can), in a class with kids twice his age, and loves to watch out the windows.

And look, I’m an okay person. Not super great, but I don’t want him to think my slouching mediocrity is a life goal. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I’d rather instill some kind appetite for success. It’s never interested me, and I’ve been horribly lucky on not becoming a slug – but I’m more of a remora. Gliding along not causing too much a stir and living off the hard work of others. Those who I attach myself to don’t mind me, so I skirt along. Maybe that is why I feel like I’m so hard on him, or why I want him to so independent. Because when you couple that I feel like I’ve not done anything to stake my claim and my daily fear of passing on my flooded pessimism, ADHD, mild depression – it’s hard not worry. I want him to be better.

Maybe I’m a ‘Bad Father.’ I always go to sleep wondering how I can do better. I’m bad at it sure, but as with everything – it takes time to get good. If you’re a dad reading this, know that you are bad too, everyone is – just learn from your mistakes and lament on your pitfalls. Make things right, be honest.

Maybe by the time he’s tucking me into bed I will master it.