Forgive me. Here comes another parenting blog. Five tips on how to raise your child. Presented by Dr. Samuel Jaye Tanner, PhD.
A friend of mine has started writing posts on Medium. Read James’ blogs if you dare. He’s an economist. Spooky. James gets a penny or two when people click on his links. I should be so lucky. All I get is the immeasurable goodness of connecting with other people through my blogs. I’ve always been better at seeking goodness than profit, I think. A penny or two would be nice, but that’s never really been my mission.
One of Medium’s tips for bloggers is to give the reader easily digestible information. The youngsters call it content. Numbers in the title. Clear and engaging topics. That sort of thing. Five easy ways to do blank. Three things to help you blah. That sort of thing is not really my sort of thing. Numbering reality? Who needs it? So I’m joking about five tips on how to raise your child. Or three ways to do anything else. But I’ll tell you a couple of stories.
I like telling stories.
Solomon and Samson are sweet boys. But they are also children. So they can be very mean to each other. And to their mom and dad. Little tyrants.
“Make me breakfast!” Samson howls into Katie’s ear at 5:42 AM on a Saturday morning.
“I never want to play with you again!” Solomon screams at Samson after Samson walks by him too aggressively. At 7:13 AM.
“You’re the worst Dad I could ever have!” The boys shout at me after I tell them to stop putting forks in outlets at 8:24 AM. Don’t push your brother at 10:17 AM. Stop climbing into ovens at 1:36 PM. Don’t jump off that skyscraper at 5:31 PM.
That sort of thing.
A routine developed last weekend. Samson and Solomon would play nicely with each other for a few minutes. Then they scream at each other for a few minutes. Then they would shout at Katie and me for a few minutes. Then they’d tell us how much they loved us and that they were sorry. Then they’d yell at each other and start crying. Very loud. Rinse and repeat.
Twelve hours of this pattern took a toll. Katie’s body was tense. My anxiety was through the roof. Our parenting tricks helped, but only for a few moments. Time outs. Thoughtful conversations. Different activities. These things provided a few moments of peace. But soon the volume increased. Frayed ends of sanity.
Eventually, it was nearing bedtime. I was downstairs in my office. Replying to an email. Always working. Trying to feed the family. I heard the boys upstairs. They were plotting.
“Let’s go downstairs and tell Daddy he’s the worst dad we could ever have,” I heard Solomon say to Samson.
“Yeah!” Samson shouted exuberantly. “We’ll tell him he’s the worst dad!”
I listened as the boys came up with a plan. It had three steps. They’d sneak downstairs and 1) Stamp their feet, 2) Yell in my face, and 3) Tell me I was the worst dad. Three easy ways to hurt your father. The boys should blog for Medium.
I stood up from my desk and hid by the doorway. I waited as the boys quietly approached. I leapt in front of them and screamed. Loudly. Aggressively. Like a little tyrant.
Solomon jumped back. And then his face crumbled. All of the malice left his eyes. He began to weep ferociously. I was a monster. I picked up my innocent son and held him close.
“What’s wrong, Solomon? Did I scare you?”
“No,” he said through an ocean of tears.
“I was just playing. Why are you so upset?”
“I thought you were really mad at me.”
Samson started to cry because Solomon was crying. I held both of them and told them it was okay. Katie came downstairs.
I told her.
She laughed a little. Felt bad a little, too. It had been a long day. I held the boys until they realized I wasn’t really mad. Stopped crying. They went back upstairs and were yelling at each other again in a few minutes. As it should be.
The chaos continued into the next day. Scream. Yell. Apologize. Repeat and rinse. Eventually, it was nearing bedtime again. Katie and I were on the couch. Solomon had just finished climbing onto us and yelling in our faces. We were exhausted.
“What if I moved Yara’s litterbox into your bedroom, Solomon?” I asked him. “What if I gave her your bedroom because you haven’t been listening?”
Yara is our cat. Norwegian Forest Cat. Solomon giggled.
“What if we made you sleep downstairs?” Katie asked. That’s where Yara sleeps.
Solomon laughed again. Katie and I kept joking about giving Yara Solomon’s bedroom. Before we knew what happened, the joke went too far. Solomon started crying. He’s got big emotions.
“What’s wrong?” Katie asked with surprise.
“You’re going to make me sleep downstairs.”
We held Solomon and assured him we would never make him sleep downstairs. He calmed down, and, before you could scream tyrant, was throwing toys at his brother. As it should be.
Katie felt really bad after he went to bed.
“Do you think I scarred him?” she asked me.
“Do you think he scarred us?” I asked.
Katie and I watched Peaky Blinders. Took our minds of the violence of the day with a British street gang.
Seriously, though, the most recent season of Peaky Blinders does a nice job of taking up British fascism in the 30’s. Oswald Mosley. Some pretty nasty parallels with our current political dilemma, I think. But let’s not go down that road. I’m writing about five easy ways to blah. Three things to help you do blank. Two stories about parenting from Dr. Samuel Jaye Tanner, PhD. Scarring parent. Educational expert. Content creator. Etc.
It’s winter break. Lots of time with the boys. Loud and schizophrenic energy in the house. They’ll play nicely for a few minutes. Howl loudly for a few minutes. Love each other. Hate each other. They’re like a British street gang. Arthur Shelby.
I can control what I can control. Myself. And I can model more peaceful, caring ways to relate with others. Speak into making a less violent context in my home. Move that way. I can avoid eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Make peace through being peaceful. These are all admirable ambitions. I’ll aim for them. Yes, I’ll break. And I’ll joke about giving Yara Solomon’s room. Or I’ll leap out and startle the boys. And yes, my temper gets the best of me sometimes. I get ugly and mean. Come at the boys too hard. But that happens less and less these days. I’m growing more patient in my old age. Aiming for peace over violence. Goodness over profits. I’ll never be perfect. But I’ll keep heading that direction.
And there’s no three easy ways about it. Five tips to blank. And it’s fine for folks to write that way. Think that way. Market that way. But that’s never really been me.
Things seem more complicated than that.