I have a short temper that I often let get the best of me. I have a tongue that needs better controlling. I have a quick defensive mechanism that often causes more harm than it does writing any wrongs. These have been the downfall of my personality for the majority of my life.
Maybe I’m the only one like this, hopefully not. But it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much your kids take in of your words and actions. What they remember, what they imitate, it’s incredible. They’re like a damn video recorder in human form. Sometimes that’s a pretty cool thing. But in cases like this, not so much. They remember EVERYTHING. The good and the bad. But it seems as though the bad is more often regurgitated and remembered than the good.
This became painfully obvious when I had a discussion with Little Dude the other day. He was talking about the fact they have guidance once a week at his school. So I curiously asked him what they talk about. Of course he mentioned the usual stranger danger, saying no to drugs and smoking, and what to do about bullies. All of which I am glad to hear they are discussing, especially with his recent situation involving a bully, and the issues with low self-esteem that have arisen from this. But then he told me about something else they discussed: ME.
Immediately I was thinking the worst. “What is this kid saying about me in guidance?” So doing what most parents would do, I asked him what they talked about. His response was bold, firm, and cutting.
“We talked about you saying bad words, and not being nice to mommy. You’re irresponsible.”
::Step 1- Insert knife into gut::
First question I had to ask was who called me irresponsible. I knew it’s not a word he had heard here. So he informed me that’s what the guidance counselor said about people like me. Of course, now I’m thinking “Great. They think I’m one of these demanding husbands who controls and beats their wife for no reason at all.” So I quickly got him to detail what he meant by me not being nice to mommy.
“Well, when you yell at her. That’s not nice. That’s MEAN. You shouldn’t do that. EVER!”
::Step 2 – Become somewhat aggro that YOUR mean behavior is the only one that gets noticed::
I have to admit, he was right. I shouldn’t do that. Obviously stemming from arguments I’ve gotten in with the wife. Remember that hard to control tongue I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that. I do have a tendency to let my tongue get the best of me. And I’m sure he remembers this quite well. Yet, I was perplexed as to why he only mentioned me and not mommy. As for saying bad words, yes, I have a foul mouth at times, and let the kids hear too much of it I’m afraid.
So then I ask if they have talked about mommy any.
“Oh yeah. We talked about how nice she is, how she gives us baths, feeds us, lets us play video games and watch TV.”
::Step 3 – Try to defend yourself to your own child::
Wait, what? These are all things I do as well. Maybe not the baths though. On occasion, but bath and bedtime routines are usually all mommy. But feeding them? Letting them play games and watch TV? Playing Lego? Doing homework? That’s 98% me. I’m the one who does the majority of that kind of thing. So where’s my recognition for that? Why didn’t he tell them that I did those things as well.
::Step 4 – Realize where your flawed logic is::
::Step 5 – Pull knife out of gut with a twisting motion::
::Step 6 – Pull yourself together::
It was sometime between asking him if he thinks I do those things too and my aggravation over being the only one talked negatively about that I realized where I had been stumbling. The awkward trying to regain my emotional balance, and the ensuing fall, must have knocked the realization into me. Yes, I am the parent who does the majority of the things that were spoken of in regards to mommy. However, being the parent who does those the most, it’s routine. Normal. Part of everyday life. The arguments with my wife? The overhearing of swear words? Those are not.
That’s when it became clear to me. That fall I took when I heard those words from my son’s mouth? I suddenly realized how big of an impact those things really do make. Not that I didn’t know it already, I just didn’t realize how the normal, loving, child-care things I do, would pale in comparison to others. It was these, not normal events, that stick in the kids minds more. Of course they know I do other things and take care of them. I’m sure this has made an impact somewhere.
We all want to be extraordinary to our children. But sometimes, if you separate the word, something that is extra ordinary, might not be so awesome. There are things that will stick with your children more than you think, or more than you could ever realize. It’s not how you stumble and fall, but how you pick yourself back up again and move on, that determines what kind of extraordinary you become.