Parental payback

I’m not sure whether it’s seasonal affective disorder or just the holidays, but I’ve had a bit of ennui lately and have had trouble keeping up with things. I know it all stems from bad behaviors tending toward staying up late which has just been screwing with things the next morning, interfering with my good morning habits. I’m sure I could come up with lots of excuses as to why I didn’t exercise or have been consuming lots of sugar, caffeine and alcohol; staying up late on screens and so forth, but I’m not going to bother justifying it.

One of the thing that I’ve learned from meditation is the illusion of the self, specifically the storytelling that we all do to ourselves throughout the day to try to make sense of our lives. Our post-hoc justification for the way things are the way they are, or our apparent lack of free will. It’s so easy to fall back into old traps, old habits, and living with the cognitive dissonance between the way we are and the way we want to be can be disorienting if we pay too much attention to it, so we find ways to justify the way things are.

When I was younger, in my adolescence, I used to have these unhealthy behaviors with relationships — for whatever passed for relationships back in high school. Part of it was an inability to communicate, or even be able to acknowledge what I wanted, let alone express it when it came to another person. Eventually these unrequited feelings poisoned the relationship, a pattern that played out time after time until later in my adult life. I still struggle with it in my marriage now. But a few experiences opening up over the past few years have proved that a lot of the fear of acceptance that I might have felt were unfounded. It seems silly to say it as someone who has been married for almost ten years, or almost sad to thing that feelings of self-worth that I formed as a child are still affecting my ability to be happy as an adult. It just emphasizes the huge importance of being a parent.

Ultimately, I feel like I’m failing in that respect in some ways as well. It’s easy to slip into detrimental patterns in response to the way my children act, and it’s tiring to pay them the proper type of attention that they need. I have this need for authority in my household, for my children to obey and help with things like setting and clearing the table, doing laundry, and so forth. My children are so young, though, I wonder whether I’m pushing them too hard, but I always suspect that I’m not pushing them enough. I could tell stories for hours about my own experiences growing up, and I’m just emulating the behaviors that my father expressed, even though I have plenty of first-hand experience with how that backfired.

Or did it?

I won’t say that my dad was abusive. We get along fine these days. He just has a lack of, how do you say, couth, in many respects that I’ve managed to escape, thankfully. But he no doubt grew up in a much different world than today, and his daddy’s method of discipline would no doubt be considered child abuse today. Somehow, though, I feel like I’m failing as a father whenever words and reason fail me and I have to resort to physical discipline. But there are some times when my child just will not listen, becomes belligerent, and it feels like backing down is the wrong thing to.

My wife is a bit of a trained professional when it comes to kids. She’s worked in daycares and counseling with a background in early childhood development. I didn’t know shit about kids until I had one. She tries to tell me what’s ‘appropriate’ behavior for their ages, but even she resorts to less than ideal responses when our kids are being particularly difficult.

When I was younger, back home in the rural county where I grew up, I was around my cousins almost all of the time. We used to take great pleasure in driving the adults around us completely insane. Acting up to see how we we could push the limit, driving the adults around us to cursing and yelling. We thought it was a game.

Turns out payback is a bitch.

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