Dad Post: Yelling At Kids

I’ve got to put this out there right off the bat: I’m a yeller. I come from a family of yellers. Getting a couple of us in a room for ten minutes will be proof positive enough for anyone’s definition of yelling. It’s what we do. Lis doesn’t. Lis’ family doesn’t. Her being around my family for a while can be jarring, it’s taxing for me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who wasn’t brought up in the cacophony. Now we have Finn – let me clarify, Finn as a toddler.

As anyone with a toddler can attest, it’s hard NOT to yell at them. From throwing a seemingly random fit, sudden aversions to food previously loved, to bullheadedness for the sake of being stubborn – it’s a raging ocean of emotions. Then they hug you and say they love you and it’s all better, but it’s in that between space where you’ve got to get your point across – which becomes a rope bridge across a chasm of bubbling frustration.

For me, it’s a real struggle not to flip the shout-switch and go right into it. I’m bigger, I’m louder, and you are going to listen to me. Even if my child was a primate, in reflective clam I know that approach doesn’t work. I’m trying, desperately, to keep even tones to repeat myself and make my point clear. It’s not always easy and I fail at doing so. It comes back at me, quickly too, when I drop the shield. Sometimes I parry – breathe, repeat myself and we motion though it. Other times, the verbal gloves come off – I raise my voice, he raises his, and the train barrels down the track and away we go. Granted, I know yelling doesn’t change anything, and stokes his passionate toddler reluctance, but sometimes, sometimes I’ve got to let it out. Usually it ends up with me storming off or walking away or him in time out, but sorrys are parsed and the bulls put their horns away.

I’ve got to get better at holding back, it isn’t fair to him to have a guardian, companion, caretaker, fire a shout-fest across his ever confusing world. He’s at an age where he’s putting the pieces together and we’ve got the help him find the right placement to his puzzle. I don’t want him to think dads yell when you are bad, or don’t listen; I’d rather be a compassionate understanding, stoic example. I’m the adult, I’m the example.

Thankfully, each day comes as a way for me to handle it better than yesterday, each bedtime becomes a time of quiet self-reflection – allowing me to evaluate myself. Try harder tomorrow, he’ll forgive you.

Balancing My Tripod

I’ve three points to my life – three top-tier focuses. My kid, my wife, and my job. Everything else is secondary, my family, brewing, personal happiness, etc. A lot of the time I feel as if it’s that long time running joke: crazy, dumb, cute – pick two. Usually I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time with my lifetime long bout with ADHD. But seriously, keeping my son happy and being a good father pretty much means ignoring my always-on work life, or being a good husband sometimes means taking the hour to spotlessly clean the house, or focusing on work can make the other two fall flat. Sometimes I don’t get any right and just play a game for an afternoon because I just want some time outside of myself and my head and my responsibilities.

It feels like I’m juggling is slow motion and I can watch the pins drop but I’ve really got to keep this heavier weight up.

The worst times are when I feel like I can’t make anything stay propped up. My kid brings me to that teeth grinding, low shouting, I swear to god do that one more time place and my wife refuses to speak to me and I forgot to post a blog or facebook post today for work and well… fuck.

Sure, there are times where I’m firing on all cylinders being an awesome dad, killing it at work, and being a good husband – but those are islands in a foaming angry sea.

I’m not sure what the point of saying all of this is, but I feel it necessary to say so. Life is tough, and if you see me being a good dad know that one piece is taking a backseat. Sure I write nice letters to my wife, but I always forget to vacuum before my mother-in-law visits because I’m focused on the other two. If I crush a blog it’s like a weight off my shoulders knowing I can then spend the rest of the evening hanging out with my son not worrying about looming deadlines. If you see me yelling at my son – just know I’m trying to be a good dad.

I’m trying.

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.

You Jackass

I cracked a bit last night. Usually, in the middle of the night I am pretty calm and even find myself falling asleep faster than Finn. But last night was different for seemingly no reason at all.

He had flooded the bed behind him, a not-so-unusual occurrence, and need a full clothes change along with a bottle at 3am. The changing went okay, but with his new-found love for flopping around like a new trout, it gets old fast. I always pre-warm the bottle in the tiny window between pulling him out of bed and changing his diaper so my nice warm bottle was ready to go. We sit down and I start feeding him, that goes just fine – the usual cat stepping on him, another one howling about how I am ignoring her – nothing different, but for some reason this anger is welling up inside me. It’s not pointed at anything or anyone – just angry. My attempts to push it down and focus on getting Finn to, now, burp goes well. Then comes the post-bottle battle.

Like I said before he’s found a likeness toward floundering around when things are just so. This also wakes him up, a lot. You’ve got to move from bottle to pacifier very quickly after burping – I guess I didn’t move quite quick enough because his milk induced lull was dropped for a woken baby stare. The rage bubbled. I gripped Finn tight against my chest and took a handful of deep breaths for his sake and mine. He quickly fell back to dreamland and I began the move to his bed. The Sandman stuck with him till my arm was pulled from behind his head – and he popped awake like he had just been playing me for a fool. The anger welled. Resilient, I wrapped him up and moved forward popping the plug in and leant down to silence the howling cat. Then the plastic clink, that only noise that can come from your son pushing out his pacifier. The mania was dragging me deeper. I took a hard deep breath as I pulled Finn out of his bed and squatted on the Astroturf rug and rocked and rocked for hope – for hope of him finally letting go and finishing the rest of the night in dreamland. After ten minutes of rolling and rocking while itchy turf pushed its way thorough my boxers he had fallen asleep enough for me to try again. All wrapped up, fed, dry, clean – I set him down ever so slowly back into his crib. Finn’s head snapped forward as it grazed the cool bed sheet.

“You Jackass. Go. To. Sleep.”

And I didn’t mean it in the joking – oh you are being a jerk. Oh no. Somewhere in my dumb brain, I knew – just knew – he was doing this on purpose. I pulled back the loose side of the blanket and pulled the fleece as tight as it would go across his tiny body – trapping his flopping arm against his side and making him nearly immobile save for his neck – and stuck the plug in and stood back.

Almost as soon as I took my step back I regretted being angry – being that he is the baby not me. His eyes drooped right away like the taunt wrap was the one thing holding him back from deep sleep. I huffed and walked out of the room feeling defeated and guilty.

I said I was sorry for being angry this morning – he seemed unfazed.

Baby Diary, -31d: Unboxing

I’ve been sort of avoiding the start of this for some reason. Maybe I wasn’t sure where to start, or what to begin with but I thought objects might be something, an easy in.

Soon after christmas we had to do a little spending. We only had a crib, chair and a faux grass rug. We took our list from Amazon and picked up everything listed in our new book under the ‘need’ section. That and a couple rolls of wall stickers that we couldn’t live without. The boxes came and of course they were those oversized room-filling packages. I’m not sure I can solely blame amazon here because the foam changing pad wasn’t vacuumed small and its own box – so I can’t point fingers to shipping.

The room is coming together in strange ways. Recently when we move, we’re already carrying most of what we own. We change addresses, but the same photos, paintings, furniture (mostly) all go into different rooms. With the baby’s room were getting it together piecemeal, it seemed awkward and strange in a way. I guess when I was a child my room ‘grew’ in this way, but it just seems foreign now.

I’m unsure if I’m fearful, worried, or a whole host of other emotions that I’m feeling about this whole thing. For sure, I’m excited. The wonder of my child learning their way and navigating the world in new and interesting ways. I don’t want my kid to feel the weight of ADHD like I had, or the ensuing drug gamut that tried to ‘cure’ me. The possibility to avoid my awkward and lost middle school years, miss some of my substance abuse in High School, and sheer lack of motivation through 80% of it all. Sure, I worry about being a ‘good’ dad, making sure the cats don’t pee on it, I don’t drop it, or any other seemingly stupid things to think about – but I’ve seen some bad parenting and if I can just be marginally better than them, then I did okay.

Lis and I made a visit to the birthing center last week and it was a touch overwhelming; it was like being shown what you surgery is going to look like in stark realism. Really, really nice set up over there so I think that should help smooth things a bit. I can just be thankful Lis hasn’t written up a list of ‘demands’ as part of our birthing plan – heck nothing is even on paper. She seems only focused on not getting a c-section, and allow the rest to ‘just happen’. Shockingly.

As far as this blog goes, I plan on keeping it loose. I will try to post a bit about each week with the baby, with photos. The whole deal. Lis and I thought up maybe writing a first person perspective of baby ‘nutz’ – we’ll see how that plays out. Next post will be about my first partial mash brew day.