Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Grind

Kate left for Vegas Friday, and as I'm sitting here, worn down to my bone marrow, I'm filled with regrets.
Mostly they involve the many times I raised my voice at my three kids today.
Or the times I tuned them out to play with my iPhone.
Or the missed opportunities to play with them.
The thing is, these happen every day. They're unavoidable as a parent with three small children. At least they are with me.
But the regrets are magnified when I'm flying solo with the kids, and especially over an extended period, like when my wife takes her nearly annual vacation to Vegas.
She's earned the trip. That's not what this is about. Any father should watch his kids alone for a few days, for the perspective, the time alone with them and the chance to play both roles of Mommy and Daddy. They're different roles, and you don't realize how important the other role is until it's gone.
I just wish I was better at both.
I was looking forward to this weekend. I really was. I had some activities planned to chew up most of the hours, and they were fun things, like going to the library, eating at Red Robin and going to a state park to see bald eagles. OK, it's not Vegas, but it wasn't like we were going to be cooped up in the house watching  "Wow Wow Wubzy."
But MAN. Holy Cow. Did you ever see "Jon and Kate Plus 8" before they both turned into attention-starved media whores? When they were actually ragged parents wishing they had three arms or maybe a clone (or two) of themselves? That's been me the last couple of days. When you don't have someone else here to cushion the demands, they not only pile up like cinder blocks, they swarm you like an angry cloud of buzzing mosquitoes. And that's appropriate, since my kids really do drain me like those little bloodsuckers. They drain my energy, my desire to keep my patience with them and my resolve to be a good Dad. It is not just the never-ending demands for juice, snacks and entertainment (especially my precious iPhone, my only real sanity from the cacophony), it is the constant pull for my time. I have almost pissed my pants three times in the last two days because I didn't have a moment to relieve myself. And when I'm not cleaning up their aftermaths from their wild adventures tearing up the house or soothing those demands to a dull roar, I'm answering inane questions about why I'm using a blue sponge (and millions others like it) to wipe up their apple juice.
I don't know. I wonder if my kids are wilder than most — I think they do have more energy than most, and they could very well get that from me — or if it's just that having the twins basically hosed us from any prayer for a pinch of peace. It's not so much the number of kids that makes it hard, although that's certainly part of it. It's the INTENSITY. The girls are 4, and Jayden is 5, and though they can do many more things on their own, it's utterly amazing what they still need done. I have to watch them constantly, and there's already been a few times when one's simply disappeared momentarily, leading me to believe that it will be no small feat just to have all three of them here when Kate returns. I don't have to dress them, but I do need to tie their shoes, wipe their asses and mouths and wash their hands. They can't get any food or drinks on their own, and, well, I suppose they COULD, but I'd just be wiping up after that disaster, or bringing in a power hose.
If it sounds exhausting, well, it is. I took them to a state park today to see those eagles, and we got home at 2:30 p.m. I was done. Done. I'd had a great time with them, spent time with them, read them books, showed them birds, challenged them to hike a half-mile each way, made sure they weren't dead and fed them lunch.
Only they aren't my grandkids. They're my kids. It doesn't stop at 2:30 p.m. no matter how bone-weary you are. So when Andie threw a huge-ass fit, I sent her to her room, and when she kept going out, I yelled at her to stay in or she would get a spanking. When Jayden came in and demanded snacks, by the third snack, when I was trying to sit down for a couple minutes, I snapped at him to wait for dinner, and when he started whining, I snarled at him not to test me. When Allie came in seeking comfort because she'd fallen, I briefly kissed her elbow and gave her a quick hug because the movie I was making for Kate, showing her what she'd missed while she was away, apparently was more important.
All of this leads me to believe two things. One, I'm going to be a really KICKASS grandfather.
And two, I'm not a good Dad because I think it affects me more than other parents. I'm an introvert, probably to an extreme level, and as a result, I find people tiring. Exhausting. The only thing that recharges me is time alone. That means I bury myself in my iPhone when my kids are inviting me to play, and it also means my patience is short when they are doing something to try it, which is nearly all of the time.
 I'll probably be on fumes tomorrow morning, too, since Jayden will most likely wake me up at 6 a.m. when he crawls into bed with me and starts thumping me in the ribs with his monster feet (another gift from my genes).
I do not hit my kids, spank my kids or even rarely grab them too hard. I do not scream at them. They are happy, well-adjusted, cute little shits who make me proud. I love them, obviously, because, well, I'm not killing myself like this everyday for a BFF.
But I also wish I wasn't this way. I really do. I wish playtime came naturally for me. I wish I drew energy from my kids the way they draw energy from me. I wish I cherished these times because I know they won't last forever.
They really won't. And I hope, I even pray, that when I look back on them, I remember the good times, without any regret.


KenP said...

Maybe you and Waffles can team up to give us a great inadequacy seminar for the next pledge week on PBS. At the end we can get Linda Richman's coffee klatch to discuss the remaining -- unnoticed for the moment -- inadequacies. With a Jewish mother, your life will then be complete.

I know. I am insensitive. But, aren't we both overstating things?

I think a fellow in similar circumstances has the answer to all your angst -- Captain and Coke.

SirFWALGMan said...

Ken you moron.

I hear ya Peaker. I feel the same way a lot of the time. Your not the only one. Nice post.

Mark said...


I just have to laugh, Why? Because I could have written this myself!:)

I want to be an exceptional father and husband and leave my kids the legacy of a smart, gentle, patient,giving father, who is well repected and always loved by his kids.

I'll never reach that goal. I'm not perfect...but I want to be... I'll keep trying...

Our kids won't be perfect either- we'll meet in the middle..

Adrienne Saia said...

Sweet lord, we are way too much alike.

Totally identified with this piece, despite not having kids. Those reasons you stated at the end, among others but mainly those, are why I'm not sure kids will be a part of my future.

I think there are many parents who feel the way you described, but few want to admit it. This makes you many things (namely a delightfully sardonic curmudgeon) but bad Dad isn't one of them. Thanks for writing.