Being a parent is tiring…
…especially if you work hard to be the best dad you can be. I have heard childless people, all women, share with me how their mother “raised 5 children under the age of 8,” or “8 children under the age of 12,” etc. My first question (which I refrain from asking) is: did your parents ever hear of birth control? But it gets worse. These same women have told me they were beaten by their mothers when they were “bad,” with shirt hangers and wooden spoons no less. In some odd way it becomes a pissing contest of sorts. How many kids one mom could take care of. Then, as if it were good parenting, the different ways their wonderful mothers “cared” for all of these kids by beating the shit out of them. What’s wrong with this picture?
If you made a mistake at work, what would you do if you were reprimanded with a spanking by your boss? If he or she took you in their office, bent you over their lap, and spanked the crap out of you? (For the purposes of this blog, disregard any thoughts of your boss being incredibly hot, or any desire some of you might have to be spanked.) Would that be acceptable behavior? Or would you have that person arrested for assault?
The answer seems pretty clear. So why would anyone think it’s OK for parents to hit their kids?
This prelude leads me to the main point of this blog. Exhaustion. I am exhausted. And I feel pretty stuck in the sticky muck of it. I have a plan on how to get out: exercise, meditate, sleep — but I’m inept at getting these things done. Anybody else have this problem? My current physical and mental state makes it harder for me to make good, clear decisions. And although I would never dream of hitting my kids, I don’t always have the energy or the mental capacity to assess what they’re really saying when they’re acting out.
Parenting is a lot like poker.
And just like there are different types of poker players, there are different types of parents.
The above example of a parent who hits to have their children behave a certain way (and to prevent them from doing certain things) is like a hyper-aggressive poker player. This type of player bets, bets and bets some more, no matter what the situation — attempting to beat their opponents into submission. They lack the ability to assess a situation. They only act with aggression, no matter what is going on around them. They’re not looking to understand, they’re looking to pummel and control opponents.
Another type of player is more thoughtful. He/she sits down at the table and assesses his opponents — their tendencies, personalities, playing styles, etc. In other words, he is taking stock of what is going on around him so he can make the proper adjustments. This allows him to make the best decision (at any given moment) on the most effective way to act. But this style of playing requires a high cognitive process (not needed in the brutal aggressive style nor in the abusive parent who’s only solution is to hit until a behavior is changed).
This thoughtful style of parenting is one where we can actually gain an understanding of our children and help them, instead of instilling fear in them. I believe children who live in fear become adults who live in fear. They’re too scared to make a mistake, so they often fall way short of fulfilling their potential.
My job is to help my children reach their highest potential and be true to who they really are. But when I’m exhausted, it’s hard to make the right decisions. One’s “read” of a situation can often be way off.
Somewhere along the way, things tipped and started feeling too hard.
Maybe it’s because there’s no family around for support (we’re recent transplants to Madison, Wisconsin). Then again, there wasn’t all that much support from family when we lived close by to begin with. But there was always an option to ask for help if you really needed a break. Out here, the isolation never ends. It’s like driving on a road, and you never get to stop. There’s never any substantial regeneration. Plus, it’s rare for my wife and I to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. Our boys are 4, and 1 ½ years old, and my younger boy wakes up crying quite often these days — teething, colds, lost pacifier… I am so tired.
I start to feel sorry for myself, which makes me incredibly angry. So what if I’m tired? My kids need me! It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or at least it shouldn’t. I feel like it is an excuse, but isn’t it a reality? I just feel so overwhelmed, so inept. In fact, as I write this it is past 12 am. So in a way, I’m perpetuating my fatigue. But this is my time, the only time I get all day long for me. I’m not complaining, it’s a fact. And I think there are many like me — looking for some self-time. Without it, we might wake up one day with nothing left of ourselves.
For me, I need to sleep, exercise and meditate. Easy right? But the mind gets in the way. It stops us from doing what is natural, easy. It rationalizes, in a most irrational way, and keeps us in patterns that we would rather break. In other words, I’m resisting. So I stay up. I play online poker instead of meditating, I never seem to make the time to exercise.
Accepting resistance is the first step in letting it go. It’s there, whether we like it or not, so accept it. Let it be there. Resisting your resistance only builds upon what is already there.
Yes, just about every waking moment is for my kids, my wife or my job. The little time I have for me doesn’t get spent on the things I need the most. Some would say I have nobody to blame but myself. But I’m doing my best.
Does anybody else have this problem? Has anybody found a way to overcome it? Your thoughts and stories are welcome.
And remember, you are not alone…
Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!