Not more than a couple hours ago I found myself lying face down on the living room sofa, face in my hands, crying harder than I have cried in a very long time.
I cried that way for maybe fifteen minutes, but I had just come from my daughter’s bedroom where I had been lying next to her while she slept. I was holding her, kissing her head, and crying then as well.
Tonight was the second consecutive night of extreme tantrums lasting several hours.
She screams and cries and refuses to settle down or listen. She kicked and hits and insists she is a good girl. She asks the same questions about privileges, and friends, and toys over and over regardless of what I say.
Both of these nights I have been the primary disciplinarian, however, my wife did a lot of heavy lifting as well. And both nights I have had to yell very loudly, maybe louder than I have ever yelled before. I have had to threaten to spank her. I have had to pick her up and place her where I wanted her to be, and when she attempted to move I had to pick her up and put her back. I had to listen and take it while she screamed “no daddy” dozens and dozens of times. And I had to refuse to give in. Even though I was extremely tired and worn out from the altercation.
I felt like I was in a weird game of chicken to see who would break first. It wasn’t me either time, but I have ruminated on the psychology of that with every waking thought since last night. How can I impose my will? Is my thinking correct? Is any of this harmful to her? Even if it is, is it more harmful to give in?
And mostly, what happened to my happy baby girl?
The reason I was crying so hard, for those of you that haven’t found yourself in this incredibly demoralizing and weakened position, was because I hated being that person to her.
I don’t want to ever yell at my children. I don’t relish the idea of being the family dictator, making others bend to my desires. I don’t have a plan, and I don’t feel like I have much authority. But mostly it just feels very wrong to me. I can easily dominate and intimidate a girl that hasn’t reached three years of age. So, shouldn’t I be more restrained? The truth is, I’ve tried. The thing she responds to the best is the loud aggressive style. But does that mean I should do that?
She never seemed scared, and both nights when I left her room to go to the bathroom or get some water, her screams turned to screams of wanting me back by her in her room. I felt good about that.
And shockingly, it was rather easy to maintain my temper during all of this. My frustration was at an all-time high, but I wanted to make sure that even when I had to yell very loudly, I was able to follow that with a soft and gentle voice, trying to reason and barter with her about signing songs or reading books.
The obvious truth is that I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing here.
I’ve stated on this blog before, and it isn’t for effect, that I am not a good father. Samantha provides everything my kids need and I am just lazy and sometimes even detached from it all. But Jocelyn wasn’t responding to Samantha. She wasn’t responding to me well either, to be honest, but my voice can be more intimidating I suppose.
And strangely, for how emotionally distraught I was during all of this, how drained I am right now, how tired I was all day long from last night, I wanted to be in that room with her, trying to set her straight. I knew it was practice for both of us; her to become a better human and me to become a better father.
And you want to know the bug that has eaten its way into my brain? This is just beginning for me. These tantrums will only continue for I don’t know how long. And in two years, I’ll be doing it again with my son. I know I will adapt and get better at both administering the punishment and dealing with the emotional trauma, but that is the part that scares me. I will come out the other end of this hardened. I don’t have a choice, my body will adapt to this and make me less sensitive to it. But I don’t want to be less sensitive to it, I just never want to experience it again.
I don’t know when the next one will be. I didn’t figure one would be tonight after what happened yesterday. Maybe it will happen again tomorrow, I don’t know at all. But I suppose all I can hope for is that it is shorter, less stressful, and less damaging for the both of us.