The honeymoon phase, that first few gloriously happy weeks where the kids are so glad to be home and so happy to be in their own beds and with their Dad. I enjoyed them all, I really did.
But those days are over.
The boys . . . well, they’re boys. It’s not the little snipes that every brother does to their brother. It’s the massive, blood curdling, shout from upstairs in their bedroom while I make dinner. It’s the “OUCH!!! HANNAH!“ when their sister hits them. More than that, it’s when I look at their sister and tell her to knock it off.
“I didn’t hit him hard, and he had his butt in my face!”
“Hannah, how big are you?”
“…and how big is Noah/Sam?”
It’s managing the madness. There are five of us in the household and it’s a bear keeping them under the realization that I – as much as I want to tell myself I’m still just that kid who had a baby too early – am the sole authority in the house. It’s not pride or ego . . . it’s necessity. Kids like knowing that you seem to have the answers, even if deep inside you know that you don’t. Sometimes it’s as simple as what you’re having for dinner. Others, it’s making sure you get respect – even if you’ve screwed up.
Twice I’ve had to teach that lesson in the last couple weeks. I messed up on one day, in the throngs of making breakfast, packing backpacks, all that. I swear, I’m going to write my autobiography and it will be called “one shoe – the story of a man driven mad by comfortable footwear.” In that Abbi told me she was late today . . . I would likely have to pick up the kids. Maybe I didn’t hear, maybe I forgot, who knows. When that all blew up and the kids were still at school 40 minutes after the extended day program closed, she called me . . . shouting at the top of her lungs.
In her defense, she had a massive headache and was in play rehearsals with her drama class that is normally, sorry for the pun, dramatic.
But I had to clamp down. I say the lesson to the kids all the time – it’s OK to be mad. It’s never OK to yell at me, not in front of the others, and not with the attitude that you’re right, I’m wrong, and the other side has never been told. She apologized, and to her credit, she worked out a way to get the kids picked up every day and I can work the hours I need. She’s an amazing kid, she really is.
Then there’s the other pubescent person in the house. Hannah has gotten in the habit of shouting at me and using that – tone. It’s her Mom’s tone. The one that drove me crazy . . . the one that she knew pushed my buttons and got me to get very angry at times I was trying very hard NOT to be angry. The difference here is I saw my wife as an equal and she had equal amounts of life experience. And usually, that tone had a reason and many times I caused it. With Hannah, it’s usually:
“I can’t find my uniform shirt, Daaad!”
“It’s in the laundry room.”
“I just spent ten minutes in there. IT’S NOT!”
Most the time, before she gets to NOT she looks and sees my disdain and stops. But I still have to say:
“Is that the way you talk to your Dad?!”
“Then why did you?”
The most infuriating thing, usually, is that I’ll go up the stairs to find said shirt/shoe/uniform/pants/t-shirt/sweater/school book/ruler/pencil/backpack/lunchbox and say: “if I get up there and it takes me thirty seconds to find this I’m going to be very put out!
Of course, it takes about ten.
I am trying very hard to teach something taught me by my parents. Not that I’m always right, I know that’s not the case, I admitted that to Abbi when I screwed up. What I do want them to do is treat me with respect. It’s something I think too few people teach their kids today. We tell kids it’s OK to yell at mom and dad. We let them throw tantrums and give in.
My kids aren’t horrible, I make no claim they are. But this is part of the reason why, I hope. I don’t beat on them, hit them, use a belt or switch. But consequences are a must. They are told flat out what’s expected of them. They are told that they shouldn’t just respect me, but all their authority figures. Teachers, police, judges, even the lady at the counter at Starbucks.
If you respect your parents and adults in general you’ll learn to respect each other.
Now, if they’d just stop touching each other and go to bed!