And what’s worse, I didn’t regain said cool for some time. Hours, to be exact. Now what kind of a role model is that? Here’s hoping my path to regaining my composure can offer my fellow dads a tip or two.
I took our boys for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants yesterday – good food, charming service and an ample supply of crayons. Taking the boys out gives my wife some solo time back at the homestead, and I love any chance for a boys’ only adventure.
My sons are typically well behaved in restaurants – with a massive asterisk. They require near constant work, whether it’s helping them draw on the paper place mat, kindly telling them not to open the sugar packets or simply providing a distraction when they get the urge to roam.
It’s the new normal in our dining lifestyle, a small price to pay for eating out and teaching the boys key social skills.
Well, the boys weren’t entertained by my usual bag of tricks. Ben kept leaving his seat to climb on things he shouldn’t be climbing on. Eli alternately rooted Ben on and misbehaved in his own unique manner.
By the end of the meal I wish I had stayed home and snarfed down some Ramen noodles.
I was pissed. Period. My mood didn’t immediately lift when we got back home and my wife dutifully took the kids from me. My anger lingered for reasons I’m still not sure why. My children hardly helped matters. Eli suddenly thinks he doesn’t have to listen to what I say, and every act of civil disobedience simply stoked the flames of my anger.
Looking back, I reflected on steps I should repeat the next time my cool escapes me as well as ways to make it a learning experience for my kids.
- Step Back: I let my wife take the boys for a while so I could decompress. My wife and I know when the other is at the breaking point, and you can earn plenty of spouse points by both acknowledging those moments and taking the kids when needed.
- WWDD (What Would Dad Do?): I’ve mentioned here how my own father would never stay angry with me, even when I really misbehaved. Frankly, that’s an attribute that skipped a generation, but thinking how my father would handle a crisis still helps.
- Embrace Comfort: A good way to calm down is to do something that evokes simple pleasure. For me, it’s watching a horror movie (weird, I know). Everyone has their own calming mechanism, be it a “Gilligan’s Island” rerun or leafing through a favorite magazine.
Pick a Good Bounce Back Activity: When your anger has mostly subsided and you are ready to re-connect with your children, suggest an activity that you enjoy doing together and that generally does not cause friction, be it watching a TV program, enjoying some physical wrestling, jumping on a neighbor’s trampoline or, as we did, going to the pool.
Apologize if Appropriate. Tell your children you were frustrated because of X, Y and Z, but that doesn’t give you license to raise your voice like Daddy did.
- Get Nostalgic: You don’t have to rummage through baby pictures, but look at some recent photographs on your smart phone to remember a time when the kids were behaving beautifully. This pic, which I managed to snap in between the restaurant high jinks, helped me:
My mood lifted slowly over the day. We ended up going to the local pool, and my boys put aside their boorish behavior for a chance to swim and splash.
It won’t be the last time I lose my patience. I’m only human, and my sons will be toddlers for a while longer. I might be as mad as hell some times, but my kids shouldn’t have to take it any longer.