Today started out like any other day. I entered the kitchen like a robot; I made coffee, poured myself a bowl of organic brown rice cereal, which tastes like the box it comes in. I’ve convinced myself that the dried blueberries I add make it taste good.
“They do, they really give it a good taste, you should try it.” I keep telling my wife. She’s not buying it because it’s b.s. and she knows it.
I rushed to pull something together for lunch because we usually have next to nothing by Thursday. We’re a single income family with two growing kids and we grocery shop on a budget, which is nearly impossible in NYC.
I finished in the kitchen and made my way to the bathroom. Before I washed, brushed and got dressed, I naturally needed to mess with something to distract myself from the fact that I had to leave for work. I updated my Amazon playlist, which took a lot longer than the two minutes I kept telling myself it would. It was a huge waste of time but whatever, I was still doing okay on time.
I shouted to my kids who I knew were awake by now. I didn’t need to enter the bedroom, but I wanted to see them before I left. My son flew out of the bedroom at lightning speed and told me that I needed to get him a snack immediately.
“Papa, I need a snack, you need to get me a snack!” he cried.
I said hello and gently reminded him that I had to go work today.
I figured I should remind him because he might have been a little confused. I took off from work yesterday and it usually throws him off when I’m home on a random weekday.
We needed to take the kids to the doctor and I believe that it’s a lot to ask my wife to do on her own. My daughter needed two shots and my son needed one. It went well for the most part until it was time to leave. My son exclaimed that the other children didn’t need the toys in the waiting room, he did. He needed all of them because he didn’t have enough at home.
At first I was trying to be reasonable by talking it out with him. For the most part, I usually don’t care to argue or discuss things like this with him because I know it’s pointless. At no point is he ever going to say “Okay Papa, you’re right, let’s go home.” He always fights.
Even if I successfully get him out of the door through negotiation, he will fight me about something else, for example walking four miles home. Not happening.
For a three year old it’s all about winning. Something, anything, just winning. Approaching these types of situations is like walking into the mouth of a cave where a grizzly bear lives. It’s always scary as hell and although the events are unpredictable, the outcome is predictably disastrous.
The main reason why I tried to discuss it with him, aside from hope, faith and a prayer, is because there were four other parents in the waiting room watching me and I didn’t want to look like an animal. I’ve noticed that whenever situations get tense with kids, parent’s head’s start popping up and I feel their eyes come upon me. I do it too. I want to see if that parent knows something that I don’t. Maybe they have a spell or the magic words to easily defuse these types of situations. I sure as hell don’t.
I’m always hoping that the mom or dad will say something like “Joshua, eagles always fly out of the hollow”, and the kid will respond by becoming quiet and putting their hand out to leave the doctor’s office with no problem at all. This has never happened. With toddlers, there is no trick and there definitely is no winning for the parent.
Eventually I just said screw it, I picked him up by the waist and marched out of there. Getting him in the stroller was a two person job but once he had his sippy, toy T-Rex and fruit snacks he was content for the most part.
Back to this morning…
After spending a few more minutes with my kids I picked my daughter up to kiss her goodbye. I looked down and saw that she has vomited on the floor. My wife, like Rosie the robot from the Jetsons came in and wiped it up. I proclaimed that it must have been the from shots from yesterday, but with minimal interrogation my 15-month old gestured to my wife that she had stuck her fingers too far down her throat while chewing on them. I’m usually wrong more than I am right.
0-2 today so far, and it was only 7:35 AM
While all of this was happening my son continued to get angrier. He had reached critical mass. He threw his stuffed animals, pulled down his basketball hoop and periodically ran over to hit me.
Whenever my son hits me I can’t help but think that I’m the only parent on the planet who has a three year old that hits them this much. Telling him to stop seems to have no effect. I vowed to never hit my child and I have never spanked or hit him in any way so this behavior is not learned.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my son is a wild spirited animal and I just need to wait for this phase to pass, as embarrassing or hurtful as it may be.
This morning he was clearly angry with me because he didn’t want me to leave. It wasn’t the best way to express his emotions, but he is three and this is unfortunately the way he knows best.
Leaving for work in the morning is especially tough because I love spending time with my kids and we have so much fun together. When I had kids I knew the kind of dad I wanted to be. I wanted to be physically present, but I also wanted to play with them and grow with them.
I looked at my phone and saw that I had to leave right then or else I would be late for work. I left my wife with my daughter screaming and my son hitting and grabbing me. It was a complete mess. Then I had to do the hardest thing. I gently pushed my son away from me and I hopped over the child gate.
I heard an eruption as I made my way down the stairs but I pressed forward. Everything in me wanted to turn around and console them both, but I had to leave. This is one of the worst ways for me to leave for work in the morning. I absolutely hate it.
I would rather wake up with a cold, spill a whole cup of coffee on my pants and have a bag of trash break open in the kitchen than have a morning like I did today. Walking out of a situation like that goes against everything I believe a dad should be. I always want to be there to comfort my kids and I want to be present. I never want to push them away, even when they’re 60.
I can justify the fact that I’m leaving because I’m paying for the food in their bellies and they have health insurance, but there is definitely an emotional void, which I just can’t seem to fill.
To top it all off, my son then climbed on top of the retractable child gate and he pulled the anchors and brackets clean out of the wall. The guilt and pain was radiating through my body at this point because I know my wife’s job is going to 1000 times more difficult today. My kids are obsessed with the stairs and there goes her first line of defense. I couldn’t look back; I had to just keep going. It was 8:15 and I was now running late.