I haven’t written too much about parenting, or being a dad, in this space. Maybe because more than half a decade being one, I still feel like I’m not very good at it. There’s a saying I’ve heard mentioned about meditation: if you think you’re enlightened, spend some time with your family. And my kids can push my buttons like no ones business. I suppose it’s only my fault. I was a grade-A hellion when I was younger, taking absolute pleasure driving the adults around me batty. I remember my cousins and I would take immense pleasure driving our grandmother to swear at us. And I seem to have to inherited the paternal authoritarianism that I rebelled against when I was a child, having turned into some sort of dictator toward my children: driving them to take over more and more of the daily household chores; limiting their dietary choices away from sweets and carbs; depriving them from screen time, or at least the passive kind.
I don’t suppose any of this is worse than what most parents go through, I surely don’t think it’s anywhere near the type of corporal punishment that I used to receive when I was younger. Yesterday’s newspaper headline told of a mother sentenced to 20 years in the death of her five-year-old after his head was knocked through sheet-rock. I know there’s monsters in the world, and I know I’m not one. But damn if my kids don’t test me some times.
It’s a bit paradoxical that it seems almost easier to handle the kids when it’s just me, versus when my wife and I are sharing parenting duties. I think part of it is due mostly to differences in parenting style, but I really think that the kids are playing us against each other in some respects. Not just that standard kid stuff where I’ll say know so they’ll go and ask mom instead kind of stuff, but just knowing on some level who is likely to let them get away with horseplay (dad) or who’s more likely to let them eat crackers on the couch while watching TV (not dad).
And the tantrums my oldest gets when she doesn’t get her way! Every denial is a betrayal and is the END. OF. THE. WORLD. Taking away TV is like the worst possible thing on earth, and the mere suggestion that she turn it off to do a chore can turn into a maelstrom of whining and pouting.
So it’s with mixed feelings that I have to say that things actually tend to go a bit smoother when the girls know it’s just them and dad. My wife has been out of town since Friday, and I’m proud to say that we made it through the weekend alive. I’ll have to save the glamours of 2AM bed-wetting for another day, but I am pleased to report that it is 9:30PM and both of my children are in bed asleep. In their own beds.
My wife and I definitely differ on sleep strategy. She’s content to lay down with the youngest for ‘nuggles’ until she falls asleep, but the process of getting the girls down for bedtime to dreamtime can run two hours, and I’ve got stuff to do, y’know? And the youngest knows that daddy doesn’t want her to sleep in the big bed. So much so that if my wife is home and I try to bring the youngest upstairs for bedtime, she will scream bloody murder to no end, until eventually mommy will come and get her. But with the wife gone, it’s a completely different story.
There’s been a bit of sleep deprivation here lately, to overcome any challenges to night-night time. No nap today and plenty of activities to wear her down, and she was ready before dinner was even on the table. And with half a melatonin gummy for dessert, she was out before the sun went down. And she’s already been up a few times since then, but went back down in her bed with no fuss. And I didn’t even half to lay there with her while she did it.
Sounds like a win for me.