Dad, you’re such a loser

i_hate_you__daddy_Okay, maybe it’s time to come clean: this parenting lark can be such a downer. Brings out the best in me, occasionally, but brings out the worst in me way too often. I struggle to get it right, thinking I am doing it for the best, but sometimes I have to ask myself am I just trying to come out on top in a battle of wills? One ego versus another?  And me supposedly the responsible adult. The bigger ego. Bruised and brittle.

My dear, departed dad was a really good man, which I always suspected as a child but luckily came to know when I became an adult myself.  But I remember as a kid hearing him saying certain things, in that horribly cross daddy way, with that cross daddy face, and thinking I won’t ever be like that, or say anything so stupid or so obviously out of touch.

You are right, of course: I’ve heard myself say things, and I have reacted to my kids in ways, that have had left me red hot with shame and embarrassment right down into the pit of my belly.

Right now, the immediate issue is dealing — badly — with a hormonally turbo-charged young teenage daughter. All these things you encounter in a tantrumming tot,  imagine them coming back from a person now adult-sized and physically imposing?  And with the words to go with it? Trying to get the phone off her? “just one sec! … “now” … “just one sec!!” … “no, we want it now” … “just one sec!!! ” … expensive, monthly-plan phone tossed in our direction, bedroom door slams, again … swearing and shouting …. and me the stoic, responsible adult, tantrumming right back at her.

Oh Jesus, I can hear the self-pitying tone in this, but I am not going to edit it, try and make it clever, salvage my ego’s authority or status. This ego’s on toast. Sunny side down.

It’s just sometimes it feels like we parents are programmed to lose, no matter what we do, either appeasing and letting certain bad behaviours pass and accentuating the good stuff when it happens, or going the other way and imposing limits and boundaries, it seems to end up in the same place.

Well, that’s how I feel right now anyway.

PS: After first posting this I went exploring the net, looking for sites and posts about struggling dads, less than perfect dads … anything I could properly relate to.

The experts were all high up the search-engine charts, of course, smugly confident I would call them up first, and sit back rapt while they smoothly doled out the advice, mostly self-aggrandising statements of the blindingly obvious, all so formulaic and achievable — supposedly. By the book, or better, buy the book. Blaah! Blaaaaaah!

The crap dad sites were mostly jokey, or just plain for laughs. Of the cheaper variety. Not much in the line of pathos, bathos, or the tragi-comic-drama of life as a thoroughly untogether modern dad.

And little in between, nothing that went even close to capturing what it’s like going through the good days, the not so good days and those days from a fresh hell. The whole gamut of parenting highs, lows, and blind stumblings towards enlightenment. The  absurdity of the whole enterprise, and the sheer pointlessness of even trying to get a handle on it all. No guru, no method, no shit.

So where is the magic site I’m looking for,  the one where I can vent my frustrations,  share an embarrassing but ultimately amusing tale or two, get some advice and reassurance in a way I can hear? Would it be didireallysaythat.com, or wrongagainbutatleastimtrying.ie? Start my own site? I don’t think so.

Just writing this, but more importantly, with the minutes since my last blowup ticking by,  I am beginning to feel the tide of hope and optimism beginning their journey towards the shore again. Tidal not terminal.

9 thoughts on “Dad, you’re such a loser

  1. Will check him out this very minute! Thanks for the heads up Paul. As an artist yourself, I would love to get your take on my recent blog piece Who Says It’s Art Anyway? Regards, Enda

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  2. Oh God.

    As someone who is not yet a parent this is what horrifies me. One part of me thinks “Well, I’m determined to be a better parent than my own” but… what if that’s not enough? It’s not like my children will have anything to compare me to. No doubt I’ll make awful mistakes of my own.

    The whole thing sounds terrifying.

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  3. Heaven forbid I should have put this out as some kind of Manifesto for the Misbegotten. It’s just my own experience, Quinn, more a comment on how I just get things so wrong sometimes. Not all the time, just sometimes. And whenI fail, I fail big. And laughing at the folly of my youthful self sneering at my own dad’s dafter moments. He was great. No reason why you won’t be great. I don’t know if you are familiar with Winnicott, and the “good enough mother” concept: basically, if we as parents are too good, we kill our children’s initiative. See, we have to **** them up, or they won’t survive outside the nest! Thanks for your comments

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  4. I have two daughters, now 31 and nearly 26. Maybe I failed, but I don’t think there are any easy answers! What we always tried to do was to instil what we believed to be good values in them, whilst giving them the space to learn and grow for themselves. Teenage tantrums were an unwelcome part of that. We tried not to take them on at the time, but come back to the issue when things were calmer. Easier to say than do, though!

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