I’m not the dad I thought I’d be. I’m patient but not as patient as I imagined. Before I had kids I couldn’t imagine that I would be a Yelling Parent. Now I wonder if I will ever stop yelling. I don’t think I’m making the same mistakes my parents did but God knows I’m making my own. When I thought about being a dad I always pictured moments and how I would react in them- how I would deal with a kid having a public meltdown, how I would handle all the questions (I actually looked forward to that! I’d love having a curious kid and having the answers, I thought.) I didn’t understand that parenting doesn’t feel like a collection of moments; it feels like a long, uphill rocky mountain climb. Yes, occasionally good things happen. But you don’t get much time to enjoy them before you have to dive out of the way of a falling boulder. And when those moments I had imagined do come I am so damn tired that I miss them. And the questions aren’t, “Why is the sky blue?” They are, “When are we going to Chuck E. Cheese? Why is it called Chuck E. Cheese? When are we going?” And they are asked 50 times before I’ve had my first coffee. No one told me about this and I didn’t think to ask.
I’ve had to move my “what-I-consider-a-good-dad” bar way down. Now I think I’m doing good when I don’t yell mean things. Apparently I’m going to raise my voice almost daily, but I won’t be abusive. That’s what it’s come to. “Sweet Jesus! Why the hell doesn’t anybody listen to me? I am not going to ask again, pick up these goddamned toys RIGHT… NOW!” is a perfectly acceptable way for me to talk to my kids right now.
I’ve always respected single parents. But now I practically worship them- those that are keeping it together anyway. I’m at my wits end after spending 8 hours with my kids. My wife does most of the evening parenting stuff and they pester her more than me on the weekends. How do people do all of that-- the morning fight over clothes and brushing teeth, the day-long misery of work, the evening with kids who don’t want to eat what was cooked for supper and who splash like maniacs in the bathtub and fight like honey-badgers when it’s time for bed so that the parent barely has time to guzzle a glass of wine before going to sleep—alone? It’s damn near heroic is what it is because we have to share the planet with them and their kids and their success or failure affects all of us. Next time you see a single parent whose kids are not ax murderers give them a hug and thank them like fucking crazy.
I still think I’m a pretty good dad. My kids are healthy and happy. They trust me. They know I love them. And more importantly, they don’t know how badly I want them to be older and more interesting.