Soften your face. Relax your jaw. Stay quiet. Don’t waiver.
Sometimes I can barely remember this, let alone carry it out when I am faced with the full fury or unabashed defiance of my 3 and 4 year old daughters. Sometimes I want to yell and scream right back at them and, unfortunately, sometimes I do. Sometimes I find this so relentless and draining, the minutes so infinite, that I don’t want to do it anymore. Sometimes I just want to escape.
This parenting business ain’t always pretty.
I am a hermit, by nature. I always have been. Even when I was a little kid the times that I was happiest I was playing by myself in the mud or creating some imaginary world alone in my room. Little has changed. One of my favorite jobs I ever had was in college where I sat in a windowless room by myself for hours. I am often most at peace when I can be only with my thoughts.
Now I am a stay at home father and my thoughts don’t stand a chance.
My girls have left the toddler stage and are suddenly kids. They are kids learning of the world and their place in it, discovering their individuality and seeking to assert their power. Often their assertions bubble to the surface like little volcanoes, spewing aggression and insolence, and the seismic disturbances trigger my own eruptions, which can be equally ugly. They’re kids and they know not what they do – I get that – but it is still not always easy to take.
All of this has left me pretty grey lately. I want so badly to always be able to remove myself from the emotions and the torrent of the moment, to remember the joys of being a father. I want to always remember how wonderful my two daughters often are. But I don’t always. Lately I find myself not enjoying being a father very much. And, as much as I love them with every atom that is me, lately I find myself not always liking my children.
And those thoughts leave me not liking myself that much, either.
These moments are hard to experience and even harder to write. Putting the words onto paper somehow makes it more real. When I write of the joys of parenthood I get to wander through the idealized beauty of all of it. When I write of the gloom and the fury, though, I feel like I am walking through my own dystopian novel, just waiting to be crushed by the next wave of anarchy.
But I need to write about it, the beautiful and the ugly. I need to flesh out these feelings to both make them more real and to compartmentalize them. This is part of parenthood. Parenthood is sacrifice. I may want to escape back to the safety of my solitude, but I am needed here. My girls don’t want to feel like they do in those thunderous moments, just like I don’t want them feel that way. When I want to raise my head up and shout at the heavens about the impossibility of it all, I need to remember that they probably would shout the same things right along with me. Just as I want my daughters to understand that all the lying and hitting and screaming and fighting doesn’t solve their problems, I need to remember that it is my job to help them understand that by teaching them other solutions. If I want them to be peaceful and happy then I must find my own way to peaceful and happy. Mine is theirs and theirs is mine.
This is the nature and reality of parenthood. It isn’t always easy or pretty or fun, but it isn’t supposed to be, I guess. Life isn’t, so why would parenthood be any different? The beauty is still there, I just need to do a better job of finding it. The sunlight is still there, I just must find my way through the storms.