I’ve been a dad now for a little bit over eight years. I have three kids. Two are boys, and the youngest is a girl. I absolutely love my kids and I love being a dad. Everything that I’ve done over the last 10 years has been to try and provide a good life for them without exchanging my presence in their lives.
I have been self-employed since I was 20 years old, so for about the last 18 years. There are many different things that I have taught myself how to do that have turned into revenue streams that has provided me the life that I have today. I’m usually pretty quick to figure things out. If there is something that I want to learn how to do, I can read a couple of blogs and watch a couple of videos and know exactly what I need to do. With a little bit of practice, I almost always have it down solid. I’ve just always been good at getting hands-on with things and figuring them out.
Parenting on the other hand has been the biggest challenge of my life. Marriage has definitely been a challenge also, but at least you’re dealing with another adult there. With parenting, you’re dealing with ever-changing little beings that are also trying to figure out what this world is all about.
I have always been an observer. I tend to stand back and watch while I take in what’s going on around me. I try to do this with my kids, especially when they are having a hard time with something. With my boys, they would get frustrated and lose their composure over something but I was able to see what was happening, empathize with them, and bring them out of it rather quickly. My daughter on the other hand I just am often at a loss with. I do not know how to handle her. I didn’t grow up with many girls around me so I just don’t know how to deal with them. Girls are different than boys, and handle things completely different than I am used to.
My wife had her Street Market tonight so I took most of the day to handle her responsibilities with the kids. That included picking up my daughter and our friends boy at noon and then returning at three to pick up my boys and their other son. We do a carpool with our neighbor friends. I told my daughter that we would go on a lunch date together. It had been a while since our last one. She said she wanted to go somewhere fun for lunch so I thought I would take her to John’s Incredible Pizza for lunch and a few games. She was pretty excited.
We had a good time and used up all of our tokens and left to go run a couple of errands before picking up her brothers from school. Right when we got into my truck she said to me, “Dad, I actually didn’t have a nice date with you.” I was confused. It seemed to me like we had a lot of fun together. We had pizza, chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream, and played some fun games together. It was just her and I and we didn’t worry about anybody else.
I asked her why she didn’t have a good time and she said to me, “John’s Incredible Pizza was dumb.” I explained to her that I thought we had a pretty good time together. She persisted by reiterating once again that she did not have a good time and then ended her statement by saying that she didn’t think she wanted to go on anymore dates with me for a while. Talk about bringing back old highschool rejection wounds. Where was this coming from?
I explained to her that when someone who cares about you takes you somewhere that you wanted to go, you need to be appreciative. If you didn’t have a good time, it’s OK to share that, but it’s not OK to make somebody feel bad. At this point she was giving me the cold shoulder and I didn’t want to start an argument with a four-year-old.
While we were running a couple of errands I started to notice that she was most likely exhausted so I am sure that she was not simply being mean to me but that she was feeling tired and that translated to her not having a good time. I know she had a good time, but she’s tired and when my daughter is tired the filters come off. She’s 4.
Fast forward to later in the evening, we went downtown to check out my wife’s market. I just started drinking coffee again and got a coffee from a friends coffee booth and was enjoying my fresh coffee. My wife wanted to buy my daughter a hand made bag from one of their junior vendors so we were at his booth. My daughter was holding her bag and for some reason decided to swing it at me knocking my coffee out of my hand and all over my arm and right side of my body. I was livid. My daughter is lucky that there were hundreds of people around us or my filter may have came off. Though my wife had 1000 other things going on, I was ready to force her to take her daughter because I was done. I took a couple of deep breath’s and composed myself, and then used her blanket that I was forced to carry by her to dry my coffee soaked body off.
Now my boys also operated on pretty narrow wavelengths around that age. I recognize that there is a lot of changes in the brain going on at that age. I also remember the family dynamic that I grew up in. There were three of us kids and I remember my younger brother having a pretty short fuse. Having three kids is pretty tough. Two play together well, and the third always is the odd man out. My daughter is even more at a disadvantage because she’s the only girl. The boys are really good about playing with her in her world, but they are boys and would rather be doing boy things and lately they have wanted it to be all about the boys.
As a parent, I don’t want to micromanage my kids’ childhood. They need to figure some things out on their own without coming to my wife and I all the time. I want my kids to be able to manage conflict and resolve situations on their own, even though they are young. I haven’t always been perfect in this area and still am not anywhere near it. Sometimes I don’t have enough bandwidth to handle their situations and it’s much easier to shut them down immediately then to understand and hear them out.
I recognize that days like this happen to me because it is mostly my wife that takes care of them throughout the day. Today was a disruption of the norm for them. I haven’t picked them up from school in forever and been with them all afternoon, so it was totally different and for my four-year-old daughter, that’s a big deal, especially at the end of the week when she is tired.
Now, they are all in bed and sleeping and I’m sitting on the couch ranting into a blog post, trying to make sense of all of my thoughts and what happened today. For me, writing helps me process my thoughts. Parenting is not for the week. It would be very easy for me to live in the frustration that was today and decide that limiting my work so that I could spend more time at home with my kids was a bad idea. You see, I’m trying to free up more time by limiting work so that I can spend more time with my wife and kids. I want to be done with work when they come home from school. I want to play with them in the afternoon before dinner. I don’t want to miss out. But after a day like today it would be easy to find more work to do so I could avoid the craziness.
I know that it is not under my own power that I am able to see my thoughts and emotions for what they are shortly after a situation like today and understand the deeper meaning in all of it. It would be very easy to take everything personal, but it’s not personal, it’s parenting.
Many people think that their kids are doing things like this to them on purpose and that their kids must just spend all of their free time trying to come up with ways to torture them. Honestly, I don’t think that our kids think about us enough to do that, nor are they capable of that at such young ages. Their little brains are literally just firing and reactions are happening. They are young, and are unable to fully control all of their emotions. They are still trying to figure it out and it is up to us as parents to guide them, even when we are the ones being attacked.
I am very thankful for the ability that I have to see the bigger picture most of the time. If it was not for that, I would have nothing but resentment built up from situations like this. I just went in to my daughters room and kissed her on the four head. I also made the mistake of inhailing through the nose right next to her blanket. Which is utterly disgusting and still covered with coffee.
Parenting is the hardest job that I have ever had. When people say that parenting is hard, they are not kidding. When they follow that up by saying that it is also the most rewarding job, they are not kidding either. I had my turn as a child and young adult. I’m not saying that I can’t still enjoy my life, but it is their turn. My kids need the best that I can give them at all times. When I fail at being the best for them, I need to be humble enough to share with them my shortcomings and apologize when necessary. None of us are perfect nor do we have all the answers. There are no step-by-step guides to raising perfect children.
So I guess I am writing this as a reminder to myself but also as an encouragement anyone else out there who has children that go sideways sometimes and blast you with hot coffee in the middle of a street market. Remember that your kids are young and are not fully in control of their emotions. They need guidance and understanding, and patience. Heck, adults these days are rarely in control of their emotions. Kavanaugh much?
The next time you see me with my kids and a crazed look on my face, know that this Dad is doing his best with what he has in that moment and I’ll do my best to encourage you in your moments.
Do it for them, because being a dad is important. It might be the most important role there is in a child’s life and there are so many dads out there not showing up for their kids these days.
Show up for your kids in all moments. You’ve got this Dad!
Note: The image I used in this post is a stock photo and not a photo of my daughter, though it is a pretty good representation of how she was looking at me earlier today. I’ve made a point not to shame my children by posting their vulnerable moments to the Internet.