There’s someone I know that I don’t like very much. Although nothing about this statement is extraordinary, being commonplace is little consolation. This guy loses his temper more than I would like, and I cringe every time he yells. I see him show patience at the office and I wonder where it goes when he gets home. There was one time I saw him yell at his daughter, and my heart broke when she shrank back and said, “why are you yelling at me daddy?” Actually, saying my heart broke may be an understatement.
If you know me at all, you may have guessed I’m describing myself.
I know there are worse fathers out there, but it can be so hard sometimes… and this too is little consolation. At different times I find myself being an encyclopedia, teacher, mentor, counselor, mechanic, activities director, coach, mediator, agent, lawyer, maid, nurse, distributor, financier, cheerleader, dietician, and at least a few dozen things I didn’t think to list. I feel like a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none, while parenting demands mastery of all. I have no problem leaving my work behind when I go home, but my kids are my life and they go with me everywhere; with all of my warts and blemishes.
The other night we were working on math homework, and Beth was having trouble with a word problem. I was tired, a little sick, and of all things… she challenged me on my advice! “No dad, you don’t understand… I’m supposed to….” In my mind I know that this is a good thing. She’s thinking critically, independently. She’s trying to work things out in her own mind, and most of the time I’m extremely proud of her for it. Oh, but the other night it nearly drove me crazy. Who was this brash ten year old, questioning the boundless wisdom of her elders? Wasn’t she asking me for help? Doesn’t asking for help imply that you don’t know?
Maybe I’m asking to much of myself; but I don’t want to be a parent who yells… no matter how infrequent it is. I want to be the guy who earns their kid’s mutual respect through patience, understanding and reason. Maybe I am and it’s just too hard to see right now. Maybe it’s just a slow process, like everything else when a child is growing… something that is neither innate, default, nor immediate… something that must be slowly nurtured and developed over time.
Sometimes I want to savor every moment, knowing that my kids won’t be kids forever. Other times I wish I could hit fast-forward to get a peak at how things will turn out.