I’m not a pessimist by nature, but as the parent of a challenging child it can be hard to look on the bright side of life.
Some days my son stomps around wearing his contrary-pants. As soon as I want to do something, whatever it is — play a game, go for a walk in the park, wash the dishes, eat lunch — Felix gnashes his teeth and screams “NO!” Other days, Felix is Lil Oedipus, moaning and crying about how he misses mommy, making clear that he’s just not that into me. The threat of Pint-Sized Napoleon making an appearance, ranting and raving, clawing and kicking when he doesn’t get his way, is a constant one. Even at school, which Felix loves, I hear reports of how he’s uncommunicative with the other kids, prone to playing rough — too rough.
“Why is this parenting stuff so hard?” I ask myself.
And of course there’s the doubts — How have I contributed to his defiant, bossy ways? Am I doing the best I can to help him? There’s a sweet, smart, funny kid in there, but he’s not always present, and some weeks, he seems to have left the building entirely. Of course, my son’s only four years old. Perhaps I need to be patient and one day Felix will outgrow the combative behavior. Am I being patient enough? And what if he doesn’t outgrow it?
These fears and worries make it hard to avoid throwing up in my mouth when I read the many status updates, tweets, and articles about how grateful people are for their amazing kids. Like, “Thanks for making my life 100x more amazing, junior! You’re wonderful in every way, and I’m so lucky to be your dad.” Here I am thankful that Felix hasn’t sent me to the looney bin, or one of his classmates to the hospital!
So I thought I’d take a moment to express gratitude for some of these trials and tribulations. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? At this rate, when Felix turns 18 I’m going to be the Thor of daddies.
Felix, you’re not always easy to live with… 1 of 7
… but here are some curve balls that I'm that thankful you threw at me.
Thank you for being so dependent! 2 of 7
Some parents wish that they could spend more time with their kids, but my little guy is literally at my side for five to six hours a day — and that's not counting nighttime, when I sleep next to him. (More on that later.) I really know Felix, and there's not a moment when I don't feel needed. In fact, I feel too needed! Which means that I look forward to his independence, instead of lamenting how one day he isn't going to want me around as much.
Thank you for being so aggressive! 3 of 7
I've always been told that I have a calm disposition, but it wasn't until I locked myself in the bathroom and took some deep breaths to calm my racing heart in the midst of being attacked by a scratching, hitting, biting, tantrum-ing munchkin that I realized, yes, I am indeed a pretty chill dude. So thanks for putting my zen to the test, kid, like every day. When your tempest of emotions rage, I envision a smooth sea on a moonlit night and imagine myself there, glass of wine in hand. One day I'll get there...
Thanks for being so mommy-centric! 4 of 7
Some dads might feel down to hear their kid say, "I wish mom stayed home with me because I love my mommy. I don't like you so much." This might especially sting to the daddy who's been your primary caregiver for four years. I mean, talk about thankless, right? But I'm grateful for these barbs, which have turned my emotional skin to body-armor, and helped me identify a sense of self outside of simply being a parent. Thanks too for letting me take a shower, go for a run, head off to work, and then have beers with my friends on Saturday — all things that mommy can't do without you having a major melt-down.
Thanks for being so stubborn! 5 of 7
Felix, you know how sometimes you get a ridiculous idea in your head and then cling to it, insisting that you're right and I'm wrong, to the point of wanting to fight about it? Like how you now claim that you can't ride your trike up the street without me pushing you, even though you've done it a million times in the past? I appreciate how that reminds me to take a breath and not lose my temper, and instead patiently explain to you that you can indeed ride without my help. I'm like a freaking Buddha in here, kid. Next stop, Nirvana.
Thanks for not being able to sleep through the night for four years! 6 of 7
I never appreciated a leisurely morning lying in bed before you came on the scene, kid. And in the past year or so, during which I've slept in your room in a bed next to yours, and you've climbed under the covers with me at some point in the night, I've come to a greater love of either having the bed to myself or sharing it with my wife, your mother. It's also really great when I don't get woken up because you're snoring in my face and squishing me against the wall with your sweaty little body! Seriously, though, it's pretty wonderful having a few moments to cuddle with you every night. And when you bolt awake at three in the morning to say "I love you," that's pretty sweet.
Thanks for being so into routine! 7 of 7
You know how you like to walk to the farmers market in this certain way, and any deviation from that path causes you great duress and results in a tantrum? Well, thanks for that. Because I appreciate a good routine too. Sure, sometimes your love of routine is a little psychotic. But that's alright. We all have our neuroses, and some of us have more neuroses than others, and that doesn't mean we love those people any less. In fact, we might even love them more because they require a little more work to love. So thanks kid, for punching and kicking the interior of my heart, stretching it out so that it's bigger than before. You're a great big mess of feelings, and I love ya for it.