I got an email this week from a reader named Chris that made me think about the times when parenthood can leave you a shriveled-up, emotional wreck of a human being. This was his email.
How close to you figure you've come to intentionally hurting one of your kids? I'm a single parent and late on Sunday afternoon of a looooooong weekend, my four-year-old son decided his five-year-old sister, who was being nothing but nice to him, needed to be bitten several times.
I saw the tail end of it and after pulling him off had him by the collar of his shirt and was seriously considering booting him into the next room. I didn't, but for a second I had that crazy blood rage I'd only felt once before when a guy deliberately broke one of my fingers at the bottom of a ruck. Is this a common thing or should I be seeking professional anger management help?
No, it's a common thing. Frankly, I don't know how any child lives past the age of 6 without being murdered by his or her parents. There must be some kind of perfect chemical balance within many parents that allows them to reach levels of murderous fury without that little kick extra needed to act on it. I can't even count the number of times I've felt the urge to put my kid through a fucking wall BECAUSE THEY DO NOT LISTEN AND OFTEN LAUGH IN THE FACE OF MY COMMANDS. Kids these days are like little Omars. They don't scare.
I remember I was yelling at my kid this past weekend and I stepped outside of my rage for a moment and thought to myself, How the fuck did I get here? Ten years ago, I was a perfectly normal human being who never yelled at anyone and would go out of his way to avoid fights and/or confrontation. Nowadays, I'm a bug-eyed rage demon who starts yelling the second something gets thrown across the playroom. What the fuck happened to me, man? I used to be fun, dammit.
Monday night, I pretty much hit the low point. My kid was being horrible and I basically went on a punishment binge. NO TV! NO DESSERT! NO OXYGEN! NO MORE OXYGEN FOR YOU! None of it worked. She just laughed in my face. Even when I yelled at her, she just kept on laughing, which made me all the more enraged. I had tried everything short of putting her in a catapult and launching her to another town, and it all failed. In fact, everything I did just made it worse.
I can't begin to tell you how utterly helpless you feel in that moment, when you feel like you have NO POWER AT ALL to control the situation. I cried. I really did. I went to my room and I cried because I felt like the world's shittiest parent. Then I read some parenting books a little later on (I really have to be at my wit's end with something to resort to checking the owner's manual), and even though most of their advice ends up failing, it at least made me feel like I wasn't the only one fucking up so miserably. The parenting books tell you to remain calm, to not stoop to the child's level by trading screams and threats. And it's sound advice. But when your kid is throwing the remote at the TV? HARD TO IMPLEMENT CALMNESS.
Being a parent to small children means that every day has at least one extended period of SUCK. You're not getting through a single day unscathed. Ever. There's going to be some kind of fight or meltdown or sibling-on-sibling attack that RUINS EVERY GODDAMN THING. I have decided, as a matter of strategy, to treat my children not as children, but rather as clients that need to be managed. I'm gonna be clinical. I'm gonna try and be at an emotional remove, as if my children are web trolls trying to start a flame war (and they are). I will refuse to engage. Go ahead, child. See if I care when you throw that train car. Beg me to react when you spit in my ear. You're never gonna WHY YOU LITTLE SHIT I WILL KILL YOU.
Anyway, I've never actually hurt my kids. The closest I've come is with the arm grab. Every parent does the hard arm grab, which isn't nearly as satisfying as I assume flat-out punching the kid would be, but it's all we have, alas. "I'm so mad at you grrrrr ... gimme the good grabbin' arm!" That's life as a parent. The ugliest side of you is often coaxed out into the open, and it's never a pretty sight.