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 but luckily came to know as I got to share an adult relationship with him. My mum died when I was 14 and my complicated feelings towards her, I can only, retrospectively, frame in the context of them being the feelings of a 14-year-old boy, kind of frozen over.
But I remember as a kid hearing my dad saying certain things, in that horribly cross daddy way, and thinking I won’t ever be like that, or say anything so stupid or so obviously out of touch. Guess what, I’ve heard myself saying 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.