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.