Just an update. My daughter is almost 8. Over the past year or so, I’ve been making intentional attempts to be open about my anger… So much so that we now talk about what makes us angry and how difficult it is for me to sometimes control, and yet when I do deal with it then we talk about how cool it was that I didn’t get angry.
My anger is mainly expressed through “running away” so when I don’t that’s good.
Posted in Parenting
Yesterday, even after having an excellent day with my daughter, just before sleeping (when she expresses her tiredness by horsing around and just being disruptive) she avoided combing her hair by running around. I lost it and threatened her that I would cut her hair as short as mine since she really didn’t want to take care of long hair. She didn’t want her hair that short, so she relented. But then, I was so angry, that when it was finally time to pray (night prayers) I refused to play a game that we usually play (where I have to find her) because I was so upset. That made her upset as well… and after prayer (which was so ironic because I really didn’t feel like praying) I began to leave. Thankfully, my daughter cried for me, and we were able to reconcile by me telling her a story (as I usually do). I really felt like a terrible (angry) father yesterday.
It’s really sad how I can oscillate between intense love for my daughter and also a lot of anger. Just a small event can spark me off. I still believe that as a four-year-old, my daughter is not expected to be perfect. But somehow I think I have a feeling that if I invest so much time on her, she should be. Or something crazy like that… so if my daughter starts whining, or acting up, especially after I’ve spent a lot of time with her, I lose my patience and get really angry.
Of course I have not hit her or anything. My way of expressing anger is by walking away or switching off… which I think is equally bad.
Anyway… more confessions of an imperfect father.
Again, after a long day, my daughter is sleeping. Yes I had to walk her to sleep while telling her stories. But finally, she is asleep. And suddenly I am too exhausted to do any other work. It’s almost as if once my daughter goes to sleep, the day is over and no more work is possible.
Last night, at about 4:00am, as I was trying to put my daughter back to sleep, I realised (again, but more emphatically this time) that God wanted me to have my daughter. In a worldly sense, it was inconvenient timing. I could have been doing so much better at my work without this “distraction”. But I realised that God intended me to have my daughter at this very time (kairos), to teach me, to make me what God wants me to become. My work, and my parenting, were part of the same plan.
I realised, similarly, that if I had to make them work, I would have to change a few “other” things… like reduce the amount of movie-watching, or even general internet browsing from my day.
The hope was that by doing this, I could become more efficient in my work, and manage having a baby, without having to always complain to myself, that life was hard.
This life-change may not make things easier for me as a parent, but they would certainly be in the right direction as I try to be the man God wants me to be.
So, here’s to a life of self-control.
I know this is not a happy image for parenting, but that’s what it feels like. Daily there are successes and failures. Daily there are times when I feel terribly inadequate. And yet, inadvertently, I am also daily reminded that I am crucially needed. In such a scenario, keeping track of daily struggles, or even those rare victories, is extremely difficult. Most of the time I am too exhausted to write.
I do know that I love my daughter. I even want to spend time with her. But in conjunction with being over-my-head with my work, being a father is just too difficult. I guess I have a wishlist, a hopelist:
1. That my daughter becomes able to sleep by herself, without needing my wife or me to actively put her to sleep all the time.
2. That my daughter is able play with other younger and older friends (while being able to protect herself, or also not hurt others).
Maybe there is more (like obviously to know Jesus Christ as her risen Lord), but currently these inane desires are all that I can remember as the next developmental phase I am looking forward to. Hopefully it will come soon.
Even as I had to “avoid” spending some time with my daughter, eventually it evened out with guests coming to visit our home. It was a family with two children, and so an important time for our daughter to know that we were there for her, and not let her feel without support as two other children invade her space. Also helpful is that I am currently on leave from my work (I am a PhD student) and so I have some guiltless time, where I don’t feel I am not working. Without the work pressure I can devote myself fully to home without feeling that I should be heading back to the office. The guilt will start next week, but for now I’m focussed on home.
Usually, this means that my wife or I handle our daughter, while the other manages the home/guests. So I got to do a lot more cooking, but also when I was with my daughter, it turned out to be good times. Also, there were even times of ‘break’ when our daughter was able to spend some time with the other older child, and that gave both of us parents much needed respite and some nice time with our friends.
So currently, I’m doing ok as a father.
There are still some internal changes though, I feel I need to change the idea that I am a capable dad or a successful parent. I think these categories are dangerous… and rather than try to be a good father, just “be” a father, and keep God first and foremost in all tasks including parenting. I haven’t thought through exactly what all this means, ie. the implications for daily living. But just to say that I am currently thinking these thoughts.
Yesterday I took the path of least confrontation. So I left early, without spending too much time with my daughter. Then through the day I met my wife and daughter (I work close to home), but nothing too long that I would have too do any disciplining. In the evening I went to work after helping with some cooking. So all in all, I hardly had to face my daughter. In the night, however, I helped her sleep and neither got angry and was able to help her.
Today, I started the morning with wanting to spend some time with my daughter, to reconnect, but the issue of brushing teeth seemed to be coming up again and my wife told me to let her handle it. While my wife said it nicely, it did hurt a little, and I realised that I wasn’t ready. I was under stress with work, so I decided to cut short my play time with T (my daughter) and head to work.
I regret both this morning and yesterday. I hate running away, especially from my family. But right now it almost feels like it is a necessity, to get my bearings so that I can become better. I feel bad that my wife does not get this kind of time-out from our daughter. She continues to need her most, and always.
Even this morning, my wife had gone to the bathroom before my daughter had woken up, and my daughter suddenly found her missing and cried and cried for her, refusing to let me comfort her. For a 2 year old, this is not abnormal, but I did feel bad that I was losing my daughter. But I know it’s too premature to look at this as rejection of me. Soon, my daughter will become more confident in herself and less dependent on my wife… even me.
I’m looking forward to that day. But I hope, I will not end up being her enemy in her mind.
There’s another reason why I’m starting the “fatherhood” theme for this blog. Because I want to be a better father.
Just recently I discovered that I was becoming exactly the kind of parent that I rejected… even like the parenting I knew… but that was a reminder. No matter how much I believed in new ways, I was still the same person prone to the same habits as the previous generation.
But at the same time, there was the possibility, with God’s help, to at least make partial change. And firstly, I did want to be different. Not as a reaction to my past or tradition, but because I knew God wanted this new kind of parenting for my daughter.
I wanted to be a better father, because I believe God wanted me to be a better father.
And so, rather than give up, after yet another horrible day, this blog was/is an attempt to bring some order… some balance… even some perspective to my own difficulties.
Going back to the actual parenting… today I spent most of the day away from my daughter. It was nice of my wife to recognise I needed the space, and I didn’t have to do any babysitting. In fact, I even had to pick someone up from the train-station, so my wife put her to sleep by herself (usually I help putting our daughter to sleep).
This was a relief. But more because I was actually ashamed of the kind of father I was becoming. I hope that tomorrow I will face/show less of my shame, and more of the love that I have.