If you walk away from this blog having learned only one thing about me, it should be this:
I mean, I’m not the worst dad out there.
I let the Things watch waaaay too much TV and play too many video games.
I’ve failed to convince them that a vegetable exists besides the occasional raw baby carrot that they should cozy up to at meal time.
And I yell.
Not to the point that my lungs cry "mercy,” mind you. I save that for game time with Thing 1’s soccer team.
Not so much that neighbors five houses away need to seek shelter indoors during warm weather and close all windows.
Enough, though. Sometimes at a volume that, while proved to be handy at getting people’s attention for major announcements at parties, seminars and – at least once with the Things – a crowded subway station.
For a while, Thing 1 even joked that “Daddy needs anger management classes.” I replied that what Daddy really needed was two kids who listened to what he said and did what he asked when it was initially spoken at conversational levels.
The recipient of most of my vocal prowess tends to be Thing 2. He’s not a bad kid. Just a smartass, pain-in-the-tuchis at times.
Like father, like the nut falling near the tree. On its head.
One of his teachers told us years back that he was bound to be a lawyer because every less-than-agreeable request of him evolves into a bare-knuckled union negotiation session:
ME: Time to go to school. Go put on your pants.
THING 2: School is not for another 30 minutes. It only takes 10 minutes to walk there.
ME: I know, but it usually takes you 20 minutes and me repeating myself six times for you to do what needs to be done.
T2: No, it doesn’t.
ME: Stop it. Go put on your pants.
T2: Go where?
ME: Go upstairs and put some pants on. NOW!
T2: There are no pants up here!
ME: Where are you looking?
T2: In your room!
ME: Why are you looking in my room for your pants?
T2: You said ‘upstairs.’ You didn’t where upstairs.
ME: Look in your own room! I laid out a pair on your bed.
T2: There are no pants on my bed.
ME (grabbing the pair off his bed): What are these then?
T2: Those are jeans!
ME: Arrrgh! Jeans ARE pants!
T2: No, they’re not.
ME: Yes. They. ARE. They are a TYPE. Of. PANTS. Now put them on. … Take your pajamas off FIRST, doofus.
T2: But you didn’t say to take …
ME: YOU KNOW VERY WELL YOU HAVE TO TAKE OFF YOUR PAJAMAS FIRST! NOW FRICKIN’ GET YOUR FRICKIN’ PANTS/JEANS FRICKIN’ ON BEFORE I FRICKIN’ …
T2 (pulling up pants): Ha. You said you have to repeat yourself six times. You only said it fouuuur times.
If this was The Simpsons, it’d do the Homer “why you little …” and squeeze and rattle his neck until his eyes bulged out. Instead, like most good Northeast suburban white ex-Catholics, I just clench the anger away through my fists until it fills my insides, overflows and shoots out my mouth.
Like steam from a boiling kettle.
Like molten lava from a volcano.
Like the shock wave that follows a nuclear explosion.
Alas, this is who we are.
A couple weeks back, I went upstairs to kiss the boy good night as is our household ritual.
But Thing 2 didn’t want to look at me.
A few minutes before I had to use my rise-above-the-subway-rattle voice to stress the importance of nightly dental care over attacking another alien village on his Nintendo DS.
“You hurt me,” he said. His lips and eyes swelled with sorrow.
“Hurt you?” I half-laughed. “Where?”
He balled up his fingers. He placed the fist gently on his chest.
“In my heart.”
Then he rolled away from me.
So, friends, in 2010, I’m on the wagon.
The yelling wagon.
Because some days I truly suck at parenting.
But this year, not yet.