28 May 2013

Full Disclosure: Here's how to really suck as a parent

Here is the most confounding thing about kids: your children are the source of the most euphoric joy and longing you have ever known in your life. Simultaneously your children are the source of the most intense frustration and pain you have ever known in your life. I think this will never change. I need to check with my older friends and make sure but I believe this duality of extremes persists until either you die or they do. Why I do not know. Why does this tiny, fragile bundle of promise and hope and purity whom I love more than I love air cause me so much grief and heartache and torment?

Love for a child is a potent cocktail of equal parts responsibility (for their health and survival) hormones and chemicals, and psychic / soul-deep ramblings having to do with the very personal concept of cell replication the meaning of life. And don't forget they're cute and they look like you, and eventually they start acting like you. This ties into your love as well. Oh, I guess protection is a big player in this love cocktail. Don't even get me started on how I can feel the atoms in my body ripping apart at the mere thought of real and dire harm coming to my child. One well placed 5 paragraph blog about a mother's grief can ruin my entire fucking week.

So why with this kind of earth shattering love and longing do I slip into moments of blind rage? My brain does not comprehend this twisted duality of love and anger. Sure there's that old adage that only someone you really love can also produce feelings of great pain or some kind of bullshit like that, but I'm trying to get at this: why is anger the other side of the love coin? Say what you want it MAKES NO SENSE. Especially in relation to a child, to your own child. We are smart people. We know that our children are still learning. We know that real malice and manipulation in small children is as common as unicorns.

If you are a parent struggling with anger then maybe you are like me. Maybe you grew up learning that the best way to protect and defend yourself (because no one else would) was to replicate the behavior of the aggressor. The best way to not be a victim is to use your anger and loudly defend yourself. But maybe you didn't grow up in this environment. Maybe you have some other equally justifiable reason for your anger (if so I would like to hear about it, I am curious about where this anger comes from and why it comes). The bottom line is this anger has now CEASED TO BE USEFUL. I have a kid now, this anger does not serve him like it served me. And if I don't get a handle on it in a very meaningful and permanent way then I will be giving him lots of reasons to hold onto his own anger eventually

Here's the deal. I yell. Not every day, but enough. Enough that it will impact everything about the way my kid interacts with the world and the way he feels about himself. Without a doubt. In fact it already has. Here comes full  disclosure: One day last week Jack was unhappy about something. Maybe I had just yelled, maybe he was just unhappy, I can't remember the specifics of the circumstance. What I do remember ( and will always remember) is I asked Jack what was wrong and he said, "Because you hate me." Yeah, cue long sharp knife through the heart. And then there was this: "You make me feel pretty bad." (That was the sound of the other shoe dropping and my shame exploding.)

Well, it seems I have done ONE thing right as a parent: my child can express his feelings very succinctly.

So. Enough is enough. Its time to pose a challenge to myself: 365 days of no yelling. (I made it 365 days without smoking, this should be a breeze right?) And of course the ultimate goal is to go well beyond 365 days, to make it a habit and to find permanent new ways of communicating and teaching and guiding my kid. Today is day 5 and so far so good. Except that I did yell at the dog in front of my kid because the dog was casually strolling in front of a car while the car was moving. So now it's no yelling UNLESS. And the only "unless" is if great bodily harm is immediately imminent. As in, I am allowed to yell STOP at the top of my lungs if my kid is about to step into oncoming traffic.

I'll keep you posted and let you know how it goes. In case you were wondering, I did encounter a few situations where I wanted to yell and I found that when I reminded myself to not yell what I did instead was LAUGH. Now isn't that interesting. Genuine anger turned into genuine laughter. Wish me luck.

(Also please check out this really awesome blog entry that inspired me to create this challenge for myself. These are our tools people, let's get cracking!)

How can anyone get mad at this face??

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