My wife and I have an unspoken agreement… I am allowed to rant and rage at the kids and lose my temper, because sometimes a point needs to be made and someone has to be the deranged lunatic. Her job is to come to me afterwards and let me know if I’ve gone too far.
Kim Jong Daddy
It had been a horrible night. The 3 year old had gotten up multiple times in the night for no clear reason other than tormenting his dear parents. This is Strike 1.
I come downstairs and find Furniture Dog has made a mess on the floor. She’s getting up there in age, but really she only decides to pee on the floor in the middle of the night if she didn’t get taken out enough the night before. This is Strike 2.
Sometime in mid-coffee, New Dog needs to go outside. We don’t have a fenced in yard, so the procedure is to affix a 30 foot training lead to the dog and let him wander out the back sliding door. This is apparently too much effort for one of the children. Strike 3.
I whip out Responsibility Lecture #4.
My daughter counters with Whining and Sniveling.
I quickly pivot into Things Are Going to Get a Lot Worse Around Here If You Don’t Shape Up.
My oldest son blocks with Agitated Moaning and Flailing of Arms.
At this point Kim Jong Daddy has had enough of the stalemate. It’s time to prepare the Nuclear Strike.
Kim Jong Daddy rattles his sabers.
HE DIDN’T EVEN WANT NEW DOG.
No one is quaking in terror? Time to push the Big Red Button.
IF NO ONE IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF NEW DOG, DADDY IS GOING TO SELL HIM.
As these words are leaving my mouth there is a small voice in my head telling me “No don’tsaythatstopno … aaah poop.”
There is nothing but a blast crater where the children were standing: the nuclear strike was a success.
And I am a horrible human being.
Leadership: not just for people you are paid to care about!
In my day job I’m a manager. I’ve taken some really excellent leadership training classes. I’ve had difficult clients, backstabbing colleagues, and deranged bosses. Never, in my worst professional day, would I ever think about saying something that horrible to anyone I worked with. Who would? No one would work with you. HR would send you a nasty-gram. You might even get shown the door.
Everything I believe I believe tells me I should be the first to admit my own mistake. Why is it so hard to sit down with my own children, who I love more than any random employee, and simply say “I’m sorry”?
Maybe I’m afraid of shattering their belief in my god-like omnipotence. Except I’m not a god, I’m just a human with a lax attitude towards birth control.
Perhaps I’m afraid of losing respect. Except I know that I have more respect for someone who I know will admit when they’re wrong than someone who is always right.
Perhaps if I say I’m sorry, I can’t hold them to account, because my wrong negates their wrong. Except that’s a stupid idea.
Once more, with feeling
The angry, upset, and shamed children were dispatched to walk the dogs.
I am no longer boiling angry, just simmering.
My wife very quietly says to me, “Do you really think that was necessary?”
Like a bucket of water dumped on a hot camp fire, I can just feel the steam escaping.
I know I’m wrong. I feel horrible.
I should have been fired from this job a long time ago.
The children return and I ask them to join me in the dining room so We Can Have A Discussion. As they sit down I can see the anger and hurt in their faces. Deep breath.
Guys, I’m not going to sell the dog. I’m sorry I said that, and I’m sorry I hurt you with my words. It was an empty threat- I can’t ever do that. I was frustrated and tired. If you guys never walk the dog again, I will probably do it, because the dog needs to be walked and as an adult it’s my job to do the things that need to be done, even if they’re hard. Like saying “I’m sorry.”
We talked for about thirty minutes, and when we were done we all hugged and cried a little bit. They apologized too for not being more responsible. More importantly, they gave me back just a little bit of the respect I squandered.
I’ve been told by recovering alcoholics that there really isn’t a single rock-bottom, but really more like a series of rock bottom events before a person wakes up. That’s what this felt like to me– a bounce on the bottom.
I am still a horrible human being, but I’m trying.
There but for the grace of dog go I.