14 March 2007

Confessions of a Father in Training

Why is it that parenting doesn't come with a manual? It's because every child is different; their personality, their needs, employable tactics to help them understand that doing your bidding is best for their well-being (and yours...)

My son is a joy and a delight. He's a bright and clever young man with an incredibly creative imagination and sometimes an insatiable appetite for destruction. This demon side usually comes out when he's involved in an accident that inflicts pain on his person.

As with most children, the knee-jerk reaction is to get uncontrollably angry at the inanimate object that somehow reached out and tripped, punched, slapped, or otherwise committed a felony in attempting to inflict injury on said child. With my son (and now my youngest daughter who is the epitome of older sibling emulation) this is first conveyed by very loudly yelling and/or screaming at the inanimate object with phrases riddled with expletives like "stupid piece of crap" or "fetchin' bastage" -- of course none of which, he learned from me.

Once the yelling ceases and the child realizes there is no reactin from said inanimate object; realizing the purposes have not been fulfilled and that feeling of sweet revenge not yet achieved... he, like many, will commence clobbering the inanimate object in order to achieve that feeling.

Quickly the child learns that this only nets them more pain which then cycles into more anger, which is then... you get the idea.

In this particular instance, I was upstairs talking with a friend of mine after excusing my son to bed for the evening. I start hearing banging sounds emanating from the basement; and realizing we need to sell the house in order to acquire more room for our child count which is about to almost double its size in a few months, I immediately want to panic.

Excusing myself and heading downstairs, my son realizes I'm entering the room and stops cold and looks at me like he knows he's in trouble. Now, my knee-jerk reaction is to start laying into him about how he's destroying the abode that we happen to need to sell in the not-so-distant future and how that needs to stop before I'm forced to remove a potential line of future posterity for my family name.

In the midst of the yelling match that ensused neither I, nor my son, listened to a word the other was saying... except the cutting ones I heard about my son wanting to move out becuase I didn't give a crap about him and didn't care to listen to what he had to say.

Little did I know that he'd been bonked on the head by the ladder up to the bunk he sleeps on and was having a reactionary episode in light of that fact. I told my son I wasn't about to listen to him until he calmed down. My lovely, beautiful, nurturing, much more intelligent than I and wonderful wife had entered the scene by this time.

Despite her asking me to mellow out with him, I angrily then left the room to say goodbyes to my friend so I could focus on remedying the screamfest that my wife was now enjoying at several decibels above that of a jet engine. I have to imagine my neighbors were enjoying it too.

After my friend left, I calmly went down into my son's room - where he still esteemed me as his enemy. My wife must have said some special prayers, because my whole demeanor changed as I took a deep breath, climbed up on the bunk and laid down beside my son; and started to talk in a calm voice to him.

It's amazing how much more can be accomplished when both parties involved in the discussion are calm. And it's amazing how much love and forgiveness a child and parent can feel for each other during the calm after the storm.

I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ puts it best:
Doctrine and Covenants: Section 121 - Verse 43
"40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
"

I wasn't moved upon by the Holy Ghost to reprove with sharpness - but I did reprove with sharpness... too much sharpness.

Luckily, like I forgave my son, the Lord will forgive me as I repent for yelling at my son and not taking the time to listen to and address his concerns the right way.

Thankfully, my son decided he doesn't want to move out after all, and that I'm still his bud... we had a wonderful chat about multiplication tables and other cool things he's doing at school. I even got to teach him the cool trick with the number 11 when multiplying by 10, 11 or 12.

It's those moments that make parenting worth it... when I can learn a lesson, my son learns a lesson and it's taught in the spirit of love, not anger. I'm just grateful my Heavenly Father is wiser than I and doesn't smite me everytime I make a dumb mistake... cause I make a lot of 'em...

And I'm grateful He has given us manuals to help us in our quest to become better parents to our wonderful children.

It seems children are here more to teach us than we are to teach them at times... God bless the children.

5 comments:

Sus said...

I thought the story was going to end that you then bonked your head climbing up into his bunk. Max's latest thing is wanting something physically impossible to happen... like for a pencil to balance on it's point. He then FREAKS when it won't and insists that I can fix it. Yesterady I yelled back "well call NEWTON then and tell him to change the law of physics because I CAN'T!!!" Good parenting.

That One Guy said...

I think Max will only be able to accomplish that on the day of the Spring Equinox... better start practicing - that day's coming up. :)

disillusioned said...

Jeff,

You're a great dad! If only all fathers realized that they need to learn from their children--repent, and change. It may not seem like it, but your efforts are worth it! Believe me--

Lins said...

Hi Jeff! I loved this post - I have had so many moments like that myself - when I'm profoundly grateful that heavenly father and my children are just so forgiving of me and my imperfections. BUt it sounds like you are a great dad!

That One Guy said...

Thanks for the love all; and thanks for visiting the site, Lins! It's nice to have you here.

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in the struggle to find parental nirvana! :) If we didn't have forgiveness and tolerance, where would we be?

The most interesting (and often times most challenging) issue, in my humble opinion, is that we're more comfortable around our family members and often times tend to be rude/offensive quicker than those we associate with outside of the home.

I've thought about this often and wonder why I find myself working harder to be nice to the people I work with than I do my family -- and I spend more waking hours with the people I work with than my family; seems it should be the other way around.

On the other hand... maybe the fact that I do have to spend more time with them than my family induces some of the incentive. The other factor there is that my employment helps me keep a roof over my family's heads and food on the table; thus adding more incentive.

Sad but true... Then the stress builds when sometimes one feels they can't confront in fear of someone in "power" taking offense, so niceness comes where you'd not be so quick to offer it with a family member ... knowing you can't be "fired" for not being nice... again sad, but sometimes true.

When that happens, I think it makes more stress come home too adding more incentive to NOT be nice to the family. I definitely need to find a way to master combating those things.

Keep the comments coming all, maybe we'll all figure this out together. Thanks for all the different perspectives!