A Wonderful Joyous Buzz by Lick the Fridge
Maybe in twenty-five years I won’t remember. Maybe when I’m retired in the South Pacific on my own personal island, and all I do each day is sit and sip rum out of tall glasses with umbrellas and read stories that people have sent me and write letters to my friends, and when both my kids have graduated college and have become doctors or garbage collectors or valets or lawyers or bartenders or whatever it is they’re going to become, maybe then I’ll be able to put it in perspective.
And maybe then I won’t feel bad about it, bad about all the times I’ve yelled at my kids because things weren’t gong my way, or because I couldn’t make them understand what was supposed to happen, or because they couldn’t communicate to me what they were feeling or what they wanted me to do. When the overwhelm of fatherhood had reached its peak, or dipped into its deepest valley, and when it felt like I didn’t even want to be a father because the personal sacrifice was too insurmountable and cataclysmically unfair. When I reached the point of exhaustion where even doing the simple things like washing the dishes, taking a piss, or going to the grocery store were monumental achievements that were often not achieved at all.
And maybe when I look back at it all, I will realize that it wasn’t being a parent that was so overwhelming, it wasn’t the dealing with the constant whining and crying, and the impatient and unreasonable demands, and the stubborn insistence that I stopped what I was doing and did everything for them whenever they wanted it. It wasn’t the inability to check an email or talk on the phone or leave the room with out it being a major occurrence. It wasn’t all these things that made it so hard. It was those things combined with my unfulfilled desire to do all the things that I did before I had kids that made it so hard.
And maybe with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll realize that when the responsibilities of parenthood collided with the interests and activities that made me sane, when the emotions I felt and the words I used sometimes didn’t come out the way I meant them to, or when they did come out the way I meant them to at the time, even though I knew I shouldn’t have meant them because I knew how damaging they could be to such young minds who were still forming their impressions of the world, and how influenced they were by my words, my thoughts, and my actions and behaviors. Maybe if I realize all that, I’ll be able to put it in perspective.
And yet, many times it feels like it is the right thing to do, even if I know in my heart that it is the wrong thing to do. It is the right thing to do to yell and scream and punish and dole out consequences. It is the right thing to do get mad and be exasperated and wonder when it—whatever “it” is, the next stage, childhood, parenting?—will ever end. It seems right when I am in the moment and it seems wrong afterwards. It always seems wrong.
I know this and yet I keep on doing it, and every time I do it I feel like I shouldn’t have done it that way, I feel that there is an alternative way that I could have and should have handled the situation. And I find myself getting annoyed and resentful over the simplest things that happen, because I know that those simple things—a cry when my daughter trips and falls, a scream when my son can’t figure something out—can be ignored or they can be attended to, and neither decision guarantees a particular outcome.
Sometimes I make the right decision and sometimes I make the wrong decision. If I make the wrong decision I get madder and take it out on them, and if I make the right decision it is pure dumb luck.
And maybe in twenty five years when I’m sipping my rum on the beach and my kids have become successful, happy, well adjusted adults, I’ll be able to realize that the things that seemed excruciatingly impossible to deal with, and the things that sent me into rages and made me throw things around the house, and the things that made me cavalierly use four letter words, and the things that caused me to be too harsh on them were all unavoidable and they were all just me being human.
Maybe I’ll realize that all the things I did and said that I wasn’t proud of don’t even begin to define that type of father I was for my kids growing up. Maybe I’ll know that all those things were unnecessary evils that I didn’t work hard enough to expunge, but that smothering all those things was a thick blanket of unconditional love and devotion.
Maybe as I sit on my private beach reading a letter from one of my children I’ll drink my rum knowing that I did something right. Maybe the rum will not taste sour and make me throw up. Maybe the rum will taste sweet instead. And maybe it will warm my heart, make me smile, and give me a wonderful joyous buzz.