I’m not the dad I should be.
All fathers (and parents for that matter) fall into slumps. Right now I feel like I’m under siege by every single aspect of my life. Our financial situation is, well, bleak. The creditors will not stop calling my freaking cell phone and it’s taking a toll. Christmas is around the corner and I can’t even afford gifts for all of my family members. Meanwhile Will has decided he no longer wants to sleep through the night. He’s waking up at 1, 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning and refusing to go back to bed. That leaves me blurry-eyed and draggin’ ass most mornings.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m just sad lately. As we inch towards 2011, I can’t help but think of Alex and how wonderful it would’ve been to hold our New Year’s baby for the first time. I know MJ feels it too. There’s a general sense of loss and emptiness surrounding us that really just sucks.
The problem is I don’t do sad. Never really have. My version of sad is angry. Seething, venomous rage that spreads throughout my body like poison and burns unabated, before settling into a smoldering hot fire. I’m not violent or anything, just intensely unhappy.
The first thing that goes is my patience, and as every parent knows that is the one thing you need in spades to successfully deal with a toddler. I’ve lost patience with myself, with MJ and unfortunately with Will. When he talks back to me or — even worse — if he hauls off and hits me I feel my blood pressure go through the roof. When he cops an attitude after I ask him to pick up his toys, my head nearly pops off my shoulders. It’s not pretty.
The last straw has been his poorly timed decision to wake up insanely early every morning. He gets up and immediately starts to whine. I tell him to go back to bed, he whines some more. Then he demands milk. I tell him it’s too early for milk and I put him back in his room. Now he’s gone from whining to screaming bloody murder. To make matters worse, his shrilly voice demands either his monkey, dump truck or crane. Whichever one is lost at the moment, it seems, because I can never find what he’s looking for.
He asks for milk, which I then get, and then he throws the cup at me. He wants his monkey, which I give to him, but as soon as he has it he wants nothing to do with it and cries for something else. He hits me. He pinches me. After 20 minutes of assaulting my ears with his piercing shrieks, something inside of me just snaps.
“Go to bed! Be quiet and go to bed right now or so help me you’re getting the bare butt spanking. STOP CRYING AND GO TO BED DAMMIT!!”
I regret what I’ve said before the words even leave my mouth. But at that moment I don’t care. MJ hears me yelling and kicks me out of the room for making my poor son cry even harder. She takes the time to figure out what’s wrong and then soothes him, which is what I should’ve done in the first place. I feel bad, but not bad enough to do anything about it right then and there. I crave sleep more than anything so off to bed I go.
It amazes me that he still greets me with a kiss and a smile in the morning. I hug him tight and tell him I’m sorry. He accepts my apology. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve my son or my wife.
As dads we can’t make excuses. No matter what’s going on in my life I need to put all of that aside and be a good father to my little boy, who I love more than anything. I’ve been failing in that regard as of late. And I really can’t be considered a finalist for Husband of the Year either.
It’s not easy, this thing we call parenting. By and large I put Will’s needs ahead of my own like all good parents should. But lately I’m feeling very selfish. Some days I want nothing more than a quiet house, a good movie on TV and a cooler of beer. I just want to escape from my problems for awhile, no matter how temporary a respite.
But good dads don’t make excuses. Good dads just do what they have to do and they do it while they’re smiling and playing with their kids. Even if that smile isn’t all that genuine at the moment.
While driving Will to daycare this morning, I told him I was sorry for yelling at him. And then I told him I loved him very much.
“It’s OK dad,” he said from the backseat. “You just need to be good boy.”
Yes son, yes I do. I’m working on it.