explorations of mindful fatherhood

Deep Breaths


I'm gonna freak out on you like Roger Clarvin at the Welshly Arms.

I’m gonna freak out on you like Roger Clarvin at the Welshly Arms.

….pursed-lipped, red-faced deep breaths is more like it.

It seems my son is in some sort of weird testing phase at the moment, and I find myself taking lots of deep breaths to re-organize.  These breaths help me take a second to respond rather than react, but he makes it incredibly difficult at times.

The two things that really get under my skin are when he takes one more shot at whatever he’s been told to stop and when he talks back.  For example, he has a habit of pulling on my arm when walking next to me. Not the cute tug of days of yore, but a “let’s hang my 50 lb frame from dad’s arm and see if it doesn’t come out of its socket” sort of way.  I have back issues, so lots of off-balance, twisting force will screw it up.  So we’re walking through the grocery store and he starts swinging like a monkey.

“My back, buddy. Please don’t do that or you’ll hurt me.”

One final tug…

….deep breath.

I feel like Will Ferrell’s SNL character, the lecherous professor in the hot tub who’s loquacious and gushy until his wife climbs onto him and his back seizes.  I want to snap in that moment and yell at my son in my best Roger Clarvin voice, “Ah, my back!  Get the hell off me!” That’s what that breath’s for. So I don’t snap and yell at my son in the middle to the produce aisle like some maniac.

The second thing that really gets under my skin is when he talks back. I’ll ask him to put away his shoes.  I’ll ask once.  Then again, and again, and again, without any semblance of a response.

“Man, did you hear me?  I asked you like a million times.”

“No you didn’t.  You asked me like five times.”

….even deeper breath.  The shoes might have gone whipping across the room if it weren’t for that breath.

He’s a good kid overall, and I think he’s just at that age when he’s testing the waters.  Just double-checking to see where the lines are drawn.  That doesn’t mean I just let him do it.  It doesn’t mean there are no consequences.  But what I don’t want to do is just react and yell.  My parents both had short fuses in their own ways.  If we went too far as kids, we’d get this Bruce-Banner-turned-Hulk reaction from our mom and suffer a long tirade.  Dad would just blow up and blow out, hauling off to his room or out to the backyard, all the while mutter or yelling.  I don’t want to do either of these things.

The breaths give me pause to regroup.  In the vegetable aisle I can go down on one knee, grab both my son’s shoulders and explain to him in a forceful voice that he’s going to hurt me if he keeps hanging. I let him know that I won’t hold his hand if he’s going to keep swinging from mine. Addressing the issue instead of freaking out.  The breath helps me explain that reminding him five times to put away his shoes is too many, and then order him to put them away immediately.  Addressing the issue instead of humming a shoe (for the record: I’ve never hummed a shoe, no matter how badly I’ve wanted to).

Thank god for these breaths.  If it weren’t for them, I’d be growing out my beard and getting my hot-tub speedo ready.

Author: CJ Nigh

I am an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. Undead Dad is a blog about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I also write science fiction for young adults.

8 thoughts on “Deep Breaths

  1. Just as you commented about my recent post, this is a familiar experience… It is amazing how much our children, who we desperately love SO dearly, can get so far “under our skin”. Thanks for your reflection (and good humor) about it… Be well~

  2. Love it! We have a situation here in my hometown where some afterschool workers have been charged with taping some kids mouths shut. To that I say, “There but for the grace of god go I…” These ladies could have used your “take a deep breath” advice.

  3. Great post! I have a teenage daughter and I so want to tell you that the back talk will stop but I have not been fortunate enough for that to happen. I have the feeling it will not go away until they are old enough to appreciate and understand us. (Whimper and sigh)

  4. Not yelling at my kids is one of the hardest tasks for me. I hate myself when I yell at my kids but sometimes I feel like my stomach is going to have an explosive ulcer if I don’t yell. One day I was furious at my kids for being late for school – – we always miss the bus. I took a deep breath and told them to get in the car and put their seat belts on. I came out of the car and went back to my empty house and yelled like a lunatic. No one heard me expect for myself. Boy, it felt so good to let it all out. I went back to my car acting as if nothing unusual transpired. Occasionally, my kids do get under my skin but I still love them all. Hope they’ll love their lunatic mom, despite her flaws.

  5. Sometimes ..ok most times..deep breaths are all that keep me sane, and from turning into a tiger. My girls are two yrs apart, and feed off one another for even little annoyances. Being a parent is fun, right? 😉 Keep breathing!

  6. Sounds like you’re dealing with it well to me. Like you, my 5-year-old (and the 3-year-old, come to mention it) is in this phase. 95% of the time he’s an absolute angel, but when he’s tired or feels he’s been slighted he goes into selective listening (i.e. not listening) mode too and just pushes the boundaries that little bit too much.

    I react much the same as you do – take a deep breath, self-edit my immediate response, then try to be firm but fair. Aggravating and sometimes though his behaviour can be (in particular he tends to jump up and down on me when I’m sitting), I think it’s important not to lose perspective and balance the occasional bad behaviour with the predominantly good by not overreacting.

  7. My Zoë is almost 14 months old and developing her own character. I will always remember drawing deep breaths if we come to this stage. You are a great dad!

  8. Pingback: Back from the Dead | undeaddad

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