No Tolerance

Good parenting is not unlike being able to drink large amounts of alcohol. Let me explain.

In college I drank a little bit. And by a little bit I mean everyday. Ultimately this was not a positive aspect of my life, but the one good thing that came out of it was a supremely high tolerance. At the height of my college days I could take down a case of beer during one night and—while I was still drunk—I was also still functional and upright while some of my peers were passed out or falling over.

I know, you’re wondering how I’m going to possibly bring this back to parenting. And the answer is “tolerance.”

If you have (or currently are) dealing with a 3-year-old you know they can be evil little monsters. In addition to testing their boundaries at every opportunity, they’ve also learned to talk. Which means they’ve learned how to cop an attitude and talk back. Will has been particularly whiny for the last couple of months, and each time he doesn’t get his way he throws attitude and whines our way.

When I was Will’s primary caretaker I knew this and dealt with it on a daily basis. I was prepared for it. My skin was thick and it took a lot to penetrate my defenses. After all, if you discipline your kids with timeouts or make them pick up their toys when they don’t want to, you get used to hear him whine and it just becomes background noise.

But all that has changed.

I’ve been working at my new job for a month now. Four hours of commuting a day means I see him for five minutes in the morning and an hour or so at night. All day long I miss him and desperately want to get home to him. I put all the whining, temper-tantrums and negative stuff out of my head and view Will through the rose-colored glasses of a working dad who just wants to get home and have Kodak moments with his little boy.

This, of course, is completely unrealistic since I’m bound to catch some of his whiny moods. Especially as he prepares for bath and bed, because he NEVER wants his day to end or to go to sleep.

Yet I expect a well-behaved boy who’s happy to see me and wants to drop whatever he’s doing to spend precious minutes with me. But what I get is a whiny, normal 3-year-old. The only problem is I have no tolerance for the whining anymore. I’m never around it and so I’m very thin-skinned now. That means I come home, he whines, I get frustrated and yell at him, he yells at me, I give him a timeout, he gets more pissed off and soon it’s time for bed. And I’ve spent my 30 minutes of father-son time yelling at him and disciplining him.

It’s tough and I don’t have an answer or solution at the moment. I know I don’t want our brief daily interactions to consist of punishments, but that whining seems to go through me like nails on a chalkboard these days. I know that’s perfectly normal for a kid his age and I’m expecting way too much of him, but I can’t help it. It’s just another shitty part of being a part-time commuter dad.

Maybe I should work some of that alcohol back into the equation…

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6 thoughts on “No Tolerance

  1. Oftentimes whining isn’t about what it seems to be – it’s more often simply a cry for attention. Given that you commute a lot, this would seem to seem even truer in your case than on average.

    I find that giving some daddy time in big, concentrated doses when I first get home, wake up, whatever, usually helps smooth out the rest of the day.

    What makes your situation even trickier is that this is a sudden change from having daddy around all the time to not seeing much of you. For a three year old, this can be hard to understand and accept.

    I’d suggest trying to squeeze in some more early morning time, and not yell at him. Yelling is rarely helpful with toddlers. a) it rewards their behavior by giving them what they want – attention (even if it’s not good attention) b) it teaches them that yelling and anger are the ways to handle everything which sets up all kinds of problems.

    This is the best advice I have until they come out with one of those electronic dog collars that zaps kids when they whine :)

  2. As a working mom with a soon to be 3 year old, I completely relate! While I don’t have a long commute, I spend the majority of my day away from him. I leave for work by 8:45 and most days, I’ve luckily had the chance to spend an hour with him before I go…sometimes this hour is good and sometimes it’s a challenge, especially when he’s overtired! However, if I get home at 5:30 and he’s whiny, I find a have a very low tolerance for it. I try to be patient and meet all of his needs but he’s like any other 3 year old…he wants what he wants when he wants it whether I like it or not so when he’s told no or does something he’s not supposed to, it often results in my strict voice coming out and well, you know how it goes from there because you said so yourself! Sometimes I have to remember though that he is only 3 and that while I expect him to know better by now based on what my husband and I or his grandparents have taught him, at the end of the day, he’s only 3 and doesn’t fully understand…although I often think he does and he’s just testing me. And maybe for you, it’s just that he misses you a great deal so he has high expectations of you when you get home. I don’t really have any suggestions on how to cope, because I often find that I’m wondering how I can better cope with it to enjoy our limited time together but I can tell you that you are not alone!

  3. I’m a newly “single” mom..it’s been quite an adjustment from being a two-parent household, to a now one-parent household. And, given the fact that I am mommy, daddy, when he has him, doesn’t want to discipline at all..so when I get home, on the days I do get him (we split. I get Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday and weekend) Im dealing with a 2 and a half year old that pushes the boundaries simply cause he gets away with it at daddy’s. I don’t get to see much of my boy due to being at work, so I understand the frustration of the whining when all you want to do is play and spend time. I found consistency and time were the way to deal. It took Adrien and I a couple months to figure out a routine, and now, Adrien is a little less whiney with me at night. In the morning, he’s whiney, because he knows he’s leaving me.

  4. I have an absolute zero tolerance policy on whining. Can’t freaking stand it. When the whines began around Will’s age, I would tell my kids I couldn’t understand what they were saying in that voice, they needed to talk to me in their regular voice if they wanted something. And if they continued, they had to go to their room until they were ready talk in their normal voice. God, I freaking hate whining. No reason to tolerate it at all.

  5. GAWD, I am SO RIGHT THERE with you. I cannot handle the whining anymore…but…you said it best…adding alcohol back into the equation…just a little…here and there LOL

    BTW: we are now belladaddy.COM come visit!

  6. I can totally relate to the dissapointment and stress of home arrivals!

    When my kids were that age I used to arrive home expecting the house to be in perfect order, the red carpet laid out. I felt like I deserved a medal for being out ‘in the world’ earning the bacon. I cringe looking back at how judgemental I was. It’s a miracle my wife didn’t send me packing.

    I was completely unaware and largely disinterested of what my needs were, what my kids needs were, what my wife’s needs were. I just wanted ‘my fantasy’ to be waiting for me on return – and was devasted when it wasn’t. Without fail my dissapointed expectations would set off a chain reaction every time.

    My kids are older now and my wife and I work from home, yet I still find ‘home arrivals’ in the evening with the family very intense. However, after 10 years of painful drama we’ve finally learnt how to slow down and communicate carefully during these transition times.

    We practice having no expectations and instead simply sit down and really clarify what the home and family requires to transition gracefully. Sometimes I discover a lot of fear and pain I have to name before I can put my finger on what everyone in our family needs (myself included).

    It’s slightly different every day, so we have made it a habit to take the time to do this. Amazingly, when we do, there’s no drama, no yelling, no hurt. Things get done, everyone feels valued, nourished and fulfilled. When we try to rush it and stop communicating it turns into a bun fight again.

    I wonder how this kind of communication would’ve effected my ‘commuter’ experience when my family was younger? I’m sure it would’ve been a lot less painful for everyone!

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