A few weeks ago we had a couple families over for BBQ. During dinner T wouldn’t stay in his seat and kept sneaking hush puppies off of other people’s plate. The worst part was he’d take a bite and then put it back on the plate. I was grossed out and pissed and I told him off. With feeling. Someone told me to calm down, he was just acting like a toddler and I replied, “But I want him to be perfect now!” It was a joke, but there was an uncomfortable amount of truth to it. You see, I do not practice what I preach. My last post was more of a reminder to myself rather than a declaration of great parenting from my high horse.
I parent the way I live the rest of my life, wound up tight as hell. There is nothing laid back or relaxed or patient about me. T is in for a tough road. Luckily both Z and I are big fans of therapy, so we’ll get him help when he starts to resent the shit out of me. And who knows, maybe I’ll magically relax one day. But I’m not holding my breath.
One night when we were at my folk’s T threw his dinner plate over his shoulder. Food went everywhere. It was highly unusual behavior for him and we sat there in stunned silence for a moment before I started reading him the riot act. My dad and sister were telling me to relax. Dad even said, “He didn’t do it on purpose, it was an accident!” Which was ludicrous. It was a lot of things, age appropriate being one of them. but it certainly was no accident. The thing that totally brought us back to reality was G throwing his plastic fork at my dad a moment later. All the tension dissipated and we couldn’t help it, we laughed our asses off. Which is basically the worst thing you can do when a kid acts out, but it was just too perfect and we couldn’t get ahold of ourselves. My sister turned to my dad and said, “Don’t worry, it was an accident!”
After thinking about those instances (and a million more) I’ve realized I don’t mind that I’m super strict with him. But I do mind my lack of patience. I mind that his perfectly normal misbehavior gets under my skin so deep. It is not fair to him. I don’t recall thinking of my sister as having an enormous amount of patience in general before she became a mom. Don’t get me wrong, she is a swell gal, you’d be lucky to know her and she has many virtues (Were you guys forced to watch that “classic” Nicholas and Alexandra in high school? Her impression of young hemophiliac Alexei is Oscar worthy). But as I watch her parent I am blown away by her patience with G. And frankly, jealous.
If there wasn’t frustration and anger behind them my high expectations wouldn’t be so loaded for him or for me. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy with anger at him all the time. I don’t spend my days yelling at him. I don’t think there is an eminent need to call child protective services. It’s just that I’d feel better about the fact that that I’m a total hard ass with really strong ideas on how my kid should be raised and should behave if I had some patience about the whole endeavor. Don’t get me wrong, I think the consistency Z and I provide him is doing him good. But the other day out of the blue he said to me, “Thomas bad boy!” and it absolutely broke my heart. As soon as Z came home from work I told him we had to be incredibly careful and not tell T that he was bad, but what he was specifically was doing was bad. Z agreed but said he didn’t remember ever telling T he was bad. I’m sure it was me. The scary thing is I don’t remember doing it either. I’ve been telling him he’s a good boy over and over again ever since.
Sometimes the responsibility of helping to raise another human being completely overwhelms me. I’m sure I’ve caused lots of damage already and we aren’t even two years into this process. The fact that I love him with all my heart does not affect the mistakes I’ve made and will make. I want to do right by him so badly, but “want to” doesn’t matter. I mess up every single day. The thing that my love for him does provide is the will to keep trying. Usually I give up on impossible situations, but I could never give up on him.