explorations of mindful fatherhood


You’re Being That Parent

an_angry_old_man__868197The other day, I was in a shitty mood.  One of those moods in which anything can annoy me.  There wasn’t enough half-and-half for my coffee.  My wife was using the bathroom when I needed it.  My son woke up just a little too early for me to get anything done that morning.  Wah, wah, wah.

Later that morning, we were heading out to the community pool, and my son was crazy excited. So excited that he was bouncing off the walls.  When he’s super excited, he gets wild.  Like singing at the top of his lungs, shrieking unexpectedly, and (literally) throwing himself into walls.  Some things (singing) are cute, while other things (shrieking) are not.  But no matter what he did, it all seemed to get under my skin.

We got into the car, my wife in the driver seat.  My son excitedly yelped again in the car, and I let out a dramatic sigh.

“Do you remember when you were a kid and you were just so excited about something?” My wife asked.

“Yeah,” I responded reluctantly, already knowing where she was going with this.

“Did your parents ever give you a hard time when you were just so excited?  My parents did, and it sucked.  You’re kind of being that parent right now.”

Shit.  She was right.  And yet, I was feeling stubborn and couldn’t quite accept it.  “But he’s being annoying!” I wanted to say, like I was talking about my little brother or something.

It’s just a downright bad combination if my son’s excited and I’m grumpy, because all the ways he expresses his excitement are somehow irritating to me. But what a terrible time to be irritable.  The thing is, I DO remember what it was like to be crazy excited about something, only to be yelled at by my parents for making too much noise or to be threatened with having that fun thing taken away.  Hell, I know what it’s like now as an adult to be excited about something and have someone rain on my parade.

That’s the tricky thing about being a parent. You’re not really allowed to be a crybaby or a grumpy old man.  As a kid, I felt entitled when I was in a bad mood.  “Screw everybody, I’m not feeling good so they can all go to hell.”  But as a father, my grumpy attitude has so many far reaching ramifications.  And I don’t want to be that parent.

After that much needed kick in the ass by my wife, I calmed myself down.  We got to the pool and had fun.  But, as a parent, I’m realizing that those kinds of wake-up calls are much needed doses of medicine.  When I get into a funk, I sometimes feel entitled to it. My adolescent mind thinks that others should steer clear or keep themselves in check when around me, because I’m owed that much.  But it isn’t true.  My being stuck in a bad place doesn’t mean the world should shift to meet my mood.  Once I’m able to recognize that my shitty behavior is really raining on other people’s (especially my son’s) parade, I have to force myself out of it.

Once I do force myself out of it, I sometimes realize how impermanent my moods are.  That with a slight willful shift, I can actually have a good time again.  I’m thankful for having a family.  For having a wife and son who can help me see past myself and help me recognize that it’s me who creates my own suffering from time to time.  If it weren’t for them, I’d likely turn into some rotted old man, yelling at the kids on his lawn.