Kids, Am I Right?!
Being a dad, am I right?!
Holy shit, it is hard. Really hard. ‘Mostly thankless for the first 20 years (I assume) and requires every part of us. I never really understood what parents meant when they said things like “just wait, it gets harder” or “you think 2 is hard, wait until 3” until we reached 3-years-old. And yet, amidst all of the hardships and trials and seemingly never-ending questions, being a father is one of the most refining aspects of my life.
A few nights ago, being a dad seemed especially hard. Our 3-year-old boy is currently in the “no matter what you say, I want to argue and tell you the opposite even if I don’t actually have any clue what I am talking about” stage. You know the one. So when 7:00 pm rolls around and he is done eating and needs to take his bath but doesn’t want to get in… and then needs to put on his pajamas… but doesn’t want to wear “those” pj’s… he wants the Snoopy ones... You get the gist. We were experiencing “one of those nights”. I could chalk it up to being tired, working hard, cooking dinner or any number of other things that would make me feel better about acting like an ass - but the truth was I was just acting like an ass. I was impatient, short with my words, didn’t consider how he was feeling and for that matter – that my son even had feelings. I was not being a dad. I was just wanting to be the boss.
Once he finally got in bed and we read our stories and did all of our nightly rituals (hugs, tickles, prayer and so on) I walked out and closed his door. It seemed as if in one single moment a ton of bricks was tied to my feet and I couldn't move. I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, and I couldn't think about anything other than the last 2 hours.
Was he really not doing what I asked him to do or was he just not doing it "my way"? Was there really a reason for conflict or was I creating conflict because I had no empathy for how he felt and wanted to treat him like a child and not like a human? I knew the answers to my questions but in that instant - didn't know what to do. I mean, he was in bed. He is only 3-years-old… does my son really know the difference? We went to bed laughing and giggling so… that means he is ok, right? He knows I love him. He is fine.
Wrong. I was wrong. No matter how I tried to distract myself or what I did - all I could think about was that I was wrong. I was impatient. I was short with him. I was creating conflict simply out of my own preference, not out of necessity. I had hurt my son and I needed to do something about it. So I went back to my son's room. I sat on the edge of his bed as he looked up at me and said "Dad, what you doing?”. I looked at him with tears welling up in my eyes and said, "Son, I am sorry - earlier tonight, when dad was short with you and when dad was impatient with you and when dad raised his voice at you, dad should not have done that." Now the tears were flowing and he looked concerned.
"I love you son and I am sorry. I do not want to talk to you like that or treat you that way. I was wrong and I am asking you to forgive me. Do you forgive dad?"
What felt like a full 30 seconds of waiting was – in reality – closer to 4 seconds. He looked up at me and said "yes dad, it's ok, we all make mistakes. Can you get me some water?"
Well - that wasn't exactly the ending I was hoping for, but that was exactly what I needed. Apologizing to my son wasn't about his reaction, apologizing was about the practice I need as a father to admit when I am wrong - to ask my son for forgiveness and regardless of his reaction, know that saying “sorry” is synonymous with saying “I love you”.
I am sure there will be many more bed-side apologies to my son and I will do my best to continue to make sure he knows that I love him just as God loves us both.