Short Gurus and My Tantrums

I think of myself as a pretty introspective person. I value rationality and reason and would like to believe that my behavior is dictated by sensible consideration rather than careless reaction. I suppose myself to be a thinker. I even went so far as to name my blog ‘Thoughtful Pop’, for cryin’ out loud.

Pretty arrogant, huh?

While there may be some accuracy in there, I think the arrogance speaks clearly, which is illustrative of just how far I really have to go on this ‘Thoughtful’ journey. It wasn’t that long ago that I remember actually saying to a friend “I think I’ve got life pretty well figured out”. No shit – I really said that. Well, I would bet etched in stone somewhere in the Himalayas is the saying “If you ever feel like you have it figured out, you don’t” or something to that effect. My journey, clearly, is still in its infancy.

Thankfully, I have two very wise, albeit short, gurus to guide me.

There are few things in my life as a stay at home dad that could be considered invariable, but conflict is one of them. It is a rock-solid guarantee that over the course of a day I will have some sort of confrontation with one or both of my daughters. Obviously, I’m not looking for that to happen, but my job is not to simply appease them. My job is, at least in part, to provide them with structure and boundaries regardless of the effect that role has on the peacefulness of the house. People, particularly small children, don’t like to be told ‘no’ and I get all no-y on those two all the time. Such a stance can really paint me the tyrant and confrontation ensues.

Every parent knows this reality of confrontation and, after a while, you become accustomed to the inevitability and the din. Just part of the gig. There are valuable life lessons about patience and fortitude within this part of parenthood, but, for me, one of the greatest lessons has been unexpected, as is maybe the nature of great lessons.

The scene usually plays out like this: some standard rule violation is followed by some standard consequence, which may or may not trigger an emotional reaction but does conclude with my standard progenical debriefing, complete with my signature squatted stance and definition of the rule violated. Then, six seconds later, as I bask in another triumphant parenting moment, the very same rule is violated again in the very same way. The second offense receives the same response save for the fact that I, being the fascist that I have discovered myself to be, perceive the offender to be mocking my regime and descend into my own despotic tantrum of teeth clenching, muttering and generally storming about.

After the second offense has been dealt with, the girls move on without any residual emotional baggage. There may have been tears or screaming or stomping, but that’s over now. They go back to doing whatever it was that they were doing, singing the same songs, playing the same games like the confrontation never happened. They afford it the proper gravity and let it fade into the past. I, on the other hand, stay rigidly entrenched in my sense of entitlement, feeling injured and disregarded. I can’t let it go as they do and almost encourage it to fester. I exit the confrontation still mad.

Who’s the adult here?

Clearly, I don’t have things, as I once announced, “pretty well figured out”. I do put a lot of thought into my parenting and into my life, but realizations such as these go a long way toward showing me the reality. And showing me just how wise youth can be if you really pay attention to it.

By holding onto the perceived insult to my authority I am only intensifying the situation rather than being the catalyst for a solution, as a parent should be. By perceiving it as an insult in the first place I am both misunderstanding the nature of my children and creating an adversarial situation. Further, whatever predisposition I have that allows me to even perceive this as insult, I’m sure, is inviting the confrontation, so how inevitable is it really? Then, by perceiving myself as simply an authority rather than an authoritative guide I am falling short of what my daughters deserve and disrespecting the idea of a forward thinking father. And finally, by being reactionary I am being lazy and we are all suffering because of it.

As are so many lessons that come with parenting, this one has been difficult to learn, and humbling. Neither of those things are bad, though. My daughters deserve a father that is willing to admit that he has fallen and then gets back up, as all kids do. This skinned knee will serve me well on my ‘Thoughtful’ journey. And my little gurus, too.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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15 Responses to Short Gurus and My Tantrums

  1. Jared Karol says:

    Another Thoughtful post. What I have concluded that I like most about your posts is that you speak not only for yourself and your own experiences of parenthood, but vicariously for me as well. Which is cool, since I don’t have the ability to think so humbly about my mistakes, but instead stubbornly trudge forward again and again with them.

    The bit about fascism hit it on the head for me. As parents, we want things the way we want them, and when the civilians under our watch don’t abide by our stipulations, they are challenging the regime. Good stuff!

    Maybe I’ll try a Communist regime approach and see if/how that changes things.

  2. First, the stone that that quote is written on is in Tibet. I’m pretty sure I heard the Dali Llama talk about it specifically in reference to young adults who know it all and think they are all that. Yes. He said “all that.”

    Second, this post made me laugh out loud. I take the same squatting stance for the same type of typical offense and I sit stoic in the same Stalinistic stance. This is the CSD after all (Communist State of Dad). I all to often take the approach Einstein so eloquently described “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.” He should have said “Fatherhood is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

    My biggest growth as a dad has always been and will continue to be to learn not to be so adversarial. It is my greatest offense and I constantly struggle with that little gremlin inside that starts jumping up and down, screaming whenever one of the kids doesn’t do what I ask. “What?! How can can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? Stand still laddie.” I’m still learning and it’s good to see that I’m not the only one. 🙂

    • I love when the Lama gets down verbally – he really can bring the wisdom.

      We are all learning. Parenthood can feel so isolated sometimes and I, too, have found a lot of comfort in relating to other parents in the whole blogoshpere thingee. Whether the challenge is being too adversarial (clearly one of mine) or something else, we can all gain from these interactions. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate you sharing your time with me.

  3. David says:

    Mitchell,

    It is sometimes difficult to remember the suggestion that we keep facing the things we face, until we learn the lessons those things are meant to teach us. Then, wiser, we move on to the next. Humanity is indeed challenging, as is clearly “parenting”; all are meant to teach us what we need to know and make us better and wiser and better able to help our friends and family deal with what we have learned. Please carry on and keep sharing and reflecting and teaching us all, as you learn this wisdom. Thankfully and with wishes for a happy holiday season and an even more interesting and learned new year!

  4. daddygreen says:

    Parenthood can definitely feel isolated.

    I loved the post made me laugh out loud.

    • This process of blogging and connecting to this whole parenting community has been very powerful to me. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to interact with folks going through all of the same things.

      Glad you liked it. Thank you, sir.

  5. Kevin says:

    Mitchel, have you been spying on me. You described perfectly what most days are like in my house.
    Great post.

  6. Meka says:

    It is so true that parenthood can feel very isolated. Your blog has made me feel like part of the secret society. You have given me my own decoder ring and now I truly do not feel so left out. I hate to see anyone feel the same frustrations I feel, but I am so thankful to know I am not alone.

    My small tribe has often come to me after they have let the confontration go and moved on, and said “I think you just need to calm down, deep breaths mamma”. Oh that makes my blood boil, but then it give me so much joy to see the insight they have. So very humbling this job is.

    Thanks Mitchell for sharing your insight so we can all feel better about what takes place in our days.

  7. mudly says:

    My mother says your eloquent with your words. I say you’re just darn hilarious. Either way, the smiles up here in Floyd should be big enough for you to see all the way down there in Florida.

  8. Chris says:

    I love this! It’s amazing how quickly kids move on, esp. when you give them the chance to air out their emotions and their feelings.

    • Thanks, Chris. Their resilience amazes me on so many levels, both emotionally and physically. I feel like I can learn so much from them in this way (and so many others, frankly). After all, aren’t they a better example of purity of thought and feeling considering that they haven’t yet been tainted by culture and society?

      Thanks for taking the time to read – after reading some posts at your site, I look forward to our interactions.

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