Fatherhood Stereotypes don’t live here; How I Handled my Son’s Bad Behavior
Fathers get stereotyped most of the time because of a role that has been pushed on us. When the majority of the world thinks of what that role looks like, it is very boxed in. I can sum it up in one word. Enforcer. We are the muscle when it hits the fan.
Every child has dreaded the phrase “Wait ‘til your father finds out about this.” Growing up in the 80’s & 90’s in a black Baptist home, son to a minister, there was no let’s make a deal. Corporal punishment was in full effect in our house. Don’t gasp as if I am some broken creature and my parents are monsters; that was just parenting during that time. It put a healthy fear of God into us, and we are all productive citizens today with happy, healthy families of our own.
The hulking father image is still very real today and is even found in tiger moms. (Yeah I have a beef with tiger moms). But what if you don’t want to be the enforcer? At least not all the time. What if you just let go?
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For the first time with my oldest son Michael, I let go. I let go of stressing myself and becoming that “hulking father” that enforces. Every day he comes home with a folder that shows how his behavior was for the day. They have a number code with a small description of what each number stands for. As with anyone his days fluctuate, and he does get notes, and we talk about what happened and try not to have it happen again. We went a whole month with not one note. He was proving that he could make good choices and we were very proud considering some of his past preschool history.
Right before spring break, we took a downturn. I’m talking the teacher was actually writing in the day box not just numbers, incident reports. As a parent, you become frustrated because you know about the past success that your child has made, and you know they are able to repeat that. We asked why he was acting like this, I went to meetings with his teacher, had lunch with him to try and show that we are on your team. As it continued we started to take away privileges and my chats became way more intense as I began to hulk out. He ignored it. He did not care which just made me even more upset. My “oms” were not helping, my chest would start hurting, and it was just way too much energy being put into a negative reaction.
The day had started off like any other with everyone running around getting ready for the morning. It was Tuesday and Monday had produced yet another note to follow the long write up we started the weekend with. Tuesday is the day of restoration. Wrong. I pick him up from school, and I can tell by his face and body language he has a note. He did.
I was in a good mood after a morning of tennis on a court I had been trying to get on for weeks. The baby napped well today, and I had found some old songs I forgot I had. As he told me about the note, he quickly went into Mother’s Day stuff they were doing at school. I simply told him that was great and I’m happy about that. But I am disappointed, hurt, and upset that you still got another note today. If you want to give mommy a great Mother’s Day gift you should not get any more notes. Daddy is upset right now I don’t want to talk.
I did not raise my voice or go into a speech. I did not ask why or what happened. I let go and enjoyed our ride back home. Until Mom got home, I enjoyed music and cooking while he was out on the patio. We went played tennis again, and I had a glass of wine when we came home for dinner. The enforcer took the night off and would like to take more nights off. The mood was lighter, but he knew he messed up. The goal is no note for a week, and you get to have a full movie night in our bed. Complete with popcorn and sleeping in our bed on a Friday night. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
So why enforce? We as parents have the endgame. In general as parents, we feel that we are supposed to have the control even though countless memes have already shown us that we have no control. At least not of kids in the toddler to 7 age range. I have no science to back that, but it seems about right. The fact is kids at that age are still in a very new world. They are just getting used to school and institutionalization. They are adjusting to social norms, making friends, being independent, and being influenced by the peers around them with different backgrounds. It’s hard to remember that because it was so long ago for us.
We have our own idea of how it should be and how we grew up. That does not equal to the right way tiger moms! Sorry I couldn’t help it. But seriously what our childhood was does not mean that has to be our children’s childhood. Take the good and the bad and find that middle ground. Read a book or a blog. There is no one right way. You don’t have to be an enforcer.
Relax, it’s just memories. Make them good and worthwhile.
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