Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking at My Boy

I'm early to pick my boy up from preschool, so I walk outside the building with his younger sister. I stop in front of the school playground, where my boy is running around.

What used to be running for the sake of running, is now more complicated at the age of four, when he's more socially-aware. I see him navigate his way around other kids. He climbs up on a structure, where a girl he has mentioned to me before is sitting by herself. As soon as he climbs up, she gets down. He stays up there alone for a minute, then climbs down, disappearing from my view. A minute later I see him running in circles with another kid. Then he's running by himself--the other kid got distracted and my boy didn't realize he was running alone. He doesn't mind. He keeps running.

And it's not going to get any easier for him. At least for the next 10-15 years, he will continue to navigate his way around other kids, trying to make friends, dealing with rejection... I see him growing up, learning life-lessons before my eyes, and all I can do is reiterate my promise to be there to reassure him and to support him.

I promised myself years ago, before I had kids or imagined what having kids would be like, that when I were a parent, Home would be sanctuary away from the insane, random nature of life for kids. I told myself that when my kids came home from the emotional roller coaster that was school, they would be safe.

And yet I fail. Every day.

I see the teacher calling the kids back to class, and I walk inside to get him. My boy is happy--he's had a good day, he tells me. Then he says something wrong, or he tells his sister something mean, or he walks the wrong way, or he complains about something... And before I have a chance to think, to reflect on my vision of Home as sanctuary, to remember my past promises to my yet-to-be-born child, I lose it. I yell, or let go of his hand, or diminish his self-worth. And before I have chance to think, I've turned Family into yet another obstacle he must navigate around while he keeps on running.





Looking at My Boy



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23 comments:

  1. Awesome post Oren! You're not alone in this battle, that's for sure. I try my best to be cool, calm and collected. After all, my son is only 4 and it's not like he has a full grasp on what it is that he's doing. In the end, all we can do as parents is to try and learn from our mistakes and do better the next time it happens.

    Keep on keepin' on man! I can tell that you are a great Dad and you'll get to where you want to be soon enough.

    Chris

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    1. Thanks!

      When I see a parent yelling at a young kid, I automatically think, "Of course your kid behaves like that! It's because of the way you're yelling at him!!!" Which might be true, or it might be BS (which is what Louis C. K. said). But all logic goes out the door when I'm tired and things don't go exactly the way I want them to go...

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  2. I'm there with you. So there. And reading this makes me feel better about my own struggles. It helps to talk about the yelling and apologize after and that seems to work, because the other day when River lost his temper and yelled--he took Jason aside before bed and apologized.

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    1. Ha! I'm pretty sure you got the names wrong there.

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    2. Also,

      I don't know if I apologize much, but I do make sure to end every day on a good note. He also knows that no matter how angry I get, any time he wants a hug, he will get it. I think just knowing that helps him get the right perspective--that even if I'm angry, it doesn't change anything about how I feel about him.

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  3. I suppose failing every day, as long as you are aware of it, is a good thing.

    We stay aware of what we want to achieve, and that we often fall short.

    Kids aren't the perfect creatures we want them to be, and we aren't the perfect parents they are usually oblivious to anyway.

    The perfection lies somewhere in between, I think.

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    1. But still, the social maze he's in now is nothing compared to the one he will face in the next few years. I need a game-plan! I need to make sure that even if things are crazy at school, things will at least make sense back home.

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  4. This is great, Oren. And you are a GREAT dad!!!

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    1. Thanks. Although you've never seen me trying to leave the house in a hurry while all the forces in the universe conspire to make me late.

      Even today, after writing this post, I was trying to leave to go to the Science Center downtown. I gave him his pants and told him to get dressed. Five minutes later, while I was busy with Madeline, I asked him if he was ready, and he said he was. Five minutes later I go to his room and he's hiding, still in jammies, behind the bed. Because it's funny to hide.

      I can understand my frustration. He lied, and we had lost some good museum time, but did I really need to talk about it the whole ride there? "Now we won't have time to walk around the harbor, because you told me you had pants on, but instead, you were playing games..." -- Man, who says stuff like that???

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  5. I think Autumns apologies are a good idea. I apologize to my kids often (while still acknowledging that they did something wrong) and I feel like I'm opening the door for them to apologize themselves. Something like, "I'm sorry for going on and on about it when you hid from me earlier. You shouldn't have done that, but I didn't have to gripe about it for as long as I did." He won't apologize in return at this age most likely, but he might as he gets older. At the very least he hears that apologizing is an option and that owning up to a mistake is not a terrible thing.

    I think it will get easier & easier too - he's about to hit the elementary school years, which I found to be the easiest stage so far. Just because you can't last a day without losing your temper at a preschooler doesn't mean you won't be able to do it for an elementary aged kid. So the social maze will get harder for him, but you will have more resources to help guide him through. You'll have more sleep, they'll require less constant surveillance as they get older. So he may come to you with a bigger social problem, but you'll have more to give at that time. Right now you're just "in the thick of it" as I like to call it. It's hard what you're doing each day and you can't be your very best as often as you'll be able to when they're older and you have more breathing room.

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    1. Thanks. I'm a little on the stubborn side (or is it "difficult"?) so apologizing when is not easy. But you're right. Stubborn people raise stubborn kids, so I better start working on it.

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  6. I struggle too with this. Parenting is so frustrating.you want them to grow up but you don't want them to grow in the same breath. I too let it out at the wrong times and think of myself as a failure.

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    1. Thing is, on days like today, when the kids are away, I look back and think, "How hard is it? Why am I struggling?" They're great kids, and they will grow up to be amazing people, so why all the stress? But then I'll see them again and lose it again, and feel bad again.

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  7. I don't think you fail. I actually think you are winning more so than many fathers I have worked with. As a social worker that had investigated child abuse, many men would never even question that they might fail. I believe it the difference between a good father and a father that will live regrets later in life.

    Fatherhood is about sharing, caring and knowing you might fail. We grow as men and fathers because we realize we aren't perfect. As long as we never stop trying to do better, be better and live better we are not failing our children.

    Aaron

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    1. Thanks. I am a product of an angry dad, though. A couple of heart attacks later, even knowing he's close to his last heart-attack, he's still trigger happy. There was nothing close to child abuse when I was a kid, but there was enough for me to not being able to consider home a sanctuary. Between the fear of my inability to provide for my kids a safe place that would makes sense to them, and my own fear of heart problems, I'm not so sure I'm on the right path here...

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  8. We are part of the world our kids have to deal with. No way around that. My goal is to be the best part. For a while at least.

    -Mike

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    1. I tell myself that being strict is all for a good cause--raising a good person--but if I'm just another obstacle rather than a guide, than I feel like I am failing, you know?

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