A year ago I made a paradigm shift in my life, my focus leaving work, career, and outside influences and moving more toward my family. I make no bones about that. If they’re hurt and I need to leave work, I leave. If they’re sad and need to talk, I stop what I’m doing and I talk. If they’re frustrated or mad or at each others’ throats I intervene. That’s just parenting. We now go out more, see the world, and are far more active. I give them the same line every day: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.
But since time immemorial I’m sure parents have wondered about the very things that have confounded me this week.
My son, Sam, has a stammer. Not a stutter, I don’t think, but sometimes I feel like he’s trying to talk so fast that he stumbles and stalls in the middle of the conversation. This is exacerbated by the fact that when he’s at home, wanting the simplest of things, say, a glass of orange juice, he says it so quietly and softly that I have to ask him three times to say it – louder. Each time, it’s the same volume. Maybe it’s a bit slower, but same volume.
Contrast this with when he wants to talk about the latest thing that he saw on Spongebob today? He’s at 1500 decibels and 10,000 miles per hour. The whole “inside voice” thing doesn’t sink in. Before you all give me the “you’re a family with lots of people he does that so he can be heard” speech I call BS. When Sam’s talking, I stop the others from interrupting and vice-versa. No matter how loud they get, I can get louder, and like my father, when I raise my voice to that level, they scatter knowing I’ve reached the limit.
When they go to bed, why does one boy insist on having his head facing the opposite direction of his brother’s? When I’m in the shower, why do they come in, fully dressed, and ask “Hey, Dad, are you up?”
It’s not just Sam, Hannah can play guitar and figure out songs by Paramore and Green Day but then complains she doesn’t think she’s good enough to play in the school band. I look at her and say “maybe not, but if you play with them long enough you will be.” I’d been there. I can read music, but give me sheet music – tell me to play a Gsus9 and I’d stare like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. You improve by playing live with other musicians, good and bad. Ignore that and you never improve.
That she’ll listen to but ask her to do the dishes? Nada. Clean the room? Zilch.
Little things confound me: they’ll quietly play video games until I go to the bathroom . . . then they follow me to the door and try to have a conversation with me, through a closed door.
I’m confounded by my daughter trying to protect me from myself, I guess? I meet any female friend for a beer; for coffee; talk on the phone; I’m asked what her intentions are. Like I’m soooo irresistible to the opposite sex. Made it clear I don’t plan on dating right now, and let’s face it for pickup lines, “Hi, I’m Dave, did I mention I have four kids?” isn’t cutting it.
I am confounded that my kids wonder how we’re short on money and why I haven’t just socked away every cent of the social security they get, but then ask why we can’t go get a treat at Starbucks, or ask to go to the movies, or ask for video games in the same hour when we almost never do those things.
I wonder why Hannah, when having her period, won’t tell me in enough time she’s . . . umm . . . had an accident and instead thinks it’s better to just throw out her panties. I’ve dealt with worse. Like I won’t see them when she forgets to take out the garbage? Like I want to buy underwear every week?!
I wonder how, in the name of God do the boys get holes in BRAND NEW PANTS?!
But then, at the end of the day, I am confounded with myself when I realize I’ve lost my temper. The day ends, and Sam kisses me on the cheek saying, “I love you, Daaady!” and it’s the perfect volume; Noah sidles up to me and pokes me so I tickle him and his infectious giggle makes us all laugh; Hannah gives me a hug and shows me some new guitar line she’s learned, and manages to do her chores; and Abbi sits next to me right before bed and puts her head on my shoulder.
Consarn it, I’m confounded.
What about you? Do your kids do these same, confounding things? Is your fuse short? Where is your focus, when the kids call from home do you talk or do you ignore the call until you’re “not so busy?” Do you see the effect that may have on your kids?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.