Through the Storms

Breathe.

Soften your face. Relax your jaw. Stay quiet. Don’t waiver.

And breathe.

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.

Breathe.

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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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22 Responses to Through the Storms

  1. David says:

    Brother Father,
    I know much of what you speak. I wish to share with you some encouragement, and warn you that you likely haven’t seen anything yet. But know, young father of only about 1,706 days, from a father of only 7,091 days that we are truly blessed to have the opportunity of being hands on fathers. Although most of my fathering these days is by phone, I appreciate every opportunity. We will long reap the fruits of our efforts. There is no better reward than to see something of ourselves, that we planted and tended, blossom and shine in our children. Our children will be as thankful for us as we are of our parents. You are doing a fine job indeed, young brother father! ( And your writing is pretty good too.)

    • Your encouragement goes a long way with me, Brother Father. I truly do treasure the gifts of being a father of those two beautiful little girls, both in the wonderful moments and the more difficult ones. It is all part of the journey, no? Thank you for taking the time once again, my friend.

  2. Carol Brown says:

    What a great piece of writing. You have discovered one of the most powerful strategies for surviving parenthood somewhat intact-venting. It is good to acknowledge the dark side of your journey and find fellow travelers who experience the same frustrations. You may not avoid the problems or find solutions, but the company of others certainly helps. Women have known this for ages and share feelings, successes, and failures with their women friends, but men often seem reluctant to share what they perceive as a weakness in themselves. Hooray for you, you evolved person!

  3. Adam says:

    That was great Mitchell, thanks again for helping put it all in perspective..

  4. Joceline says:

    Good for you having the courage to speak of this. Too often stay at home parents don’t voice the fact that, at times, it gets a bit overwhelming. i was a stay at home mom for 14 years and every year, during winter break, my husband took the children and stayed with them at his parent’s house for the week. Oh the joy of my seven days home alone. i highly recommend it. Everyone needs a ‘time out’.
    walk in beauty.

  5. Shawna says:

    Amen and ditto. Except that I’m a mother, I stay home with three little girls, and I homeschool. Needless to say, we’re in a similar boat with no paddles most of the time. I find the best approach to be simply jumping in the water and screaming below the waves. I play-scream when I need to release some steam. The kids think I’m playing, but I’m really not. I do it in short bursts and act like I’m pulling my hair out, then burst out laughing. They think it is a fun game. I think it helps me keep a little bit of sanity in tact.

    • Anything that will help keep the sanity even hanging by the proverbial thread is ok in my book. Around here we have contests to see who can scream the quietest.

      Thanks for sharing your time.

  6. Maggie Batt says:

    I’m feeling your pain. Miss you guys greatly. You may like the Family Reiki class on Sept. 18. We find ways to shift moods, emotions and bring light to situations that may be less than light. We all have to go there at times–we are human after all. Recognizing it, then making the shift is a beautiful thing.

    • Miss you, too, sister. Sometimes all it takes is writing about it to achieve the shift, but I am all for any tool to get the job done. And, yes, the shift is beautiful and so powerful to feel.

  7. talleygilly says:

    Mitchell – Beautifully told, and hopefully it is some small comfort to know that the minute you feel you are losing your temper, your mind and your ability to see the beauty, another parent is having the *exact* same experience too. This line rang so true to me and my low patience level lately –> “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.” I love your point that it’s just as important to document the beauty and the ugly of raising kids, if only to know that it is normal and expected and part of our lives. It’s hard when we’re in positions of authority and guidance for our kids to see ourselves be weak, but it’s okay for our kids to see us as human beings who are in the storms as well as the sunshine. Thanks for the reminder of this. -Alexandra

  8. Alexandra, it is no small comfort at all – it is an enormous comfort and, I have found, one of the most powerful and wonderful parts of this whole bloggy thing. I feel very fortunate to get to share my life with all of you and even more so that you share your life with me.

    As always, I appreciate you sharing your time and thoughts with me.

  9. Meka says:

    I have started to write something 3 times and just can’t find the right words. You have said out loud what I think so many of us are afraid to because we might feel like a failure. Maybe it’s not so many of us….maybe just me;) You are not alone and I thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

    • As I connect with more parents, I realize that we all go through the same things. There are truly some dark moments in this journey and more than a couple that we are not proud of. There is something very liberating about admitting to yourself that you are human and, in that, flawed.

      We are all in this together, sister. Thanks for sharing with me, too.

  10. Jared Karol says:

    Once again, you have spoken for me. . . and for any parent past or present who is/has been paying attention to his or her emotions, and who is honest. Lately, I too feel like I’m in a constant storm that I don’t how not to escape from. . .

  11. I am so happy that I have your thoughts to read!
    I feel that having my child inside my womb, emotionally, is nothing the the emotions I can only imagine I will experience once he/she is in the world. So for now, my mind is painting a romantic version of the joys of parenthood. I’m realizing that having children means more than how it makes ME feel, consideration is brought to how the CHILD feels, too. The CHILD’S life experience is just as important. My romantic expectations of raising children will not all be met, but in the end, I contributed to the experience of (hopefully) a happy, nourished human being with their own life and romantic dreams to follow.
    They wont come equipped with the knowledge to digest and express their own emotions. I must teach them in a sustainable way that they can take into adulthood… and that alone is a job that should be paid for.

    You have wonderful young ladies, and I know you hear it all the time.
    HANG IN THERE!
    GIVE ME SOME HOPE! =]

    • As I was very frustrated by people telling me how my experiences with parenthood were going to be when we were first expecting Bug, I hesitate to try to paint any kind of picture as to what your experiences might be (other than, of course, that you can kiss your ten hours of sleep goodbye, sister, but we’ve spoken about that 🙂 ). I will say, though, that you can’t imagine all that parenthood is before you actually experience it. With all of the thought, consideration and kindness that guides you in your life now, your baby is one lucky little human to have you for a mother.

      Thank you for your kind words, Shawnna. I am so happy that I know you.

  12. Robyn says:

    Mitchell… It has been way too long since I’ve visited your site and wow… What a welcome site it was! I have been experiencing this… Unease… These past few weeks and you sum it up perfectly. I don’t know why knowing others feel this way is so comforting, but I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. It takes extreme intestinal fortitude to write this down, making it more real. We shouldn’t (as parents, and human beings) be ashamed of our feelings, even when we think they may not be *proper*.

    Thank you Mitchell. You’ve made me feel more content today, and that is a rare gift! (btw, I hope you are feeling more at ease today! 🙂

    *hugs*
    Robyn

    • Robyn, my friend! It has been too long since I have visited my site, too. I am so happy to hear from you and thank you so much for your kind words. There is indeed something very comforting about these shared emotions from our separate experiences – that has been one of the most powerful parts of this blogging experience for me. This was a tough one to write, but also one of the more satisfying pieces. It felt cleansing to say it out loud.

      I am honored to have brought some contentedness to your day (a week and a half ago). Hugs right back atcha and thanks, Robyn.

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