"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, or they will become discouraged."
I woke early with the boys this morning, really early. Darkness wouldn't give way to dawn for another hour or so. I was frustrated that they wouldn't just sleep until at least daybreak...so that's how the day started...simmering anger.
I stoked the fire and told them that if they were going to play, they needed to stay in the toy room so they didn't wake up their mom or the girls. Did they listen? Of course not. They kept opening and slamming the door asking me to velcro their superhero capes on and to settle "toy disputes". Every time they screamed or fought I would just seethe with rage thinking to myself, "Why don't they just listen and obey." I would hurriedly walk over to them and get down in their faces telling them to be quiet so they didn't wake up the rest of the house. In my mind I thought: "Isn't waking me up enough for you? Will you not be satisfied until you wake up every living creature in this house or for that matter our three acre wooded lot?" It only escalated.
I thought: "I'll get them breakfast and let them watch a cartoon. That will buy me a half an hour." I got them situated at the table with bowls of honey nut cheerios and proceeded to switch the television to some kiddy show like Miles and Tomorrowland. It took about 8 minutes for them to be bored. They were playing with their food instead of eating it, poking each other with their eating utensils, and raising their voices so their squeals echoed throughout our house.
And then the straw that broke the camels back...
Caleb flung his blanket around and knocked his whole bowel of cereal all over the floor. I came unglued. After 45 minutes of managing the chaos and feeling tired and frustrated, I just exploded. I grabbed Caleb and carried him to the toy room to sit on a chair. If that was all I did, that would have been ok, but I spoke so harshly to him as if he were a fully developed adult and could understand life in all its complexities. I spoke to him as if he purposely wanted to ruin my morning, as if he was the mastermind of a plot that morning of messing up everything he possibly could. I spoke to him as if his every intention was evil. It's embarrassing to write it out even now, but it's true. In that moment I lost all sense and spoke to him with such mean words...I wanted to hurt his feelings. I wanted him to feel what he was doing to me. It was 15 seconds. But in those 15 seconds I lost consciousness of all other reality. I, the grown adult, was reduced to blatant immaturity. He, the three year old child, was expected to be a 41 year old man.
I don't want this. Nothing about my vision and mission as a father allows for this. And really, Caleb did nothing to deserve this. He deserved discipline. Loving, civil, respectful chastening. But a hissy fit. No. He did nothing to deserve what came out of my mouth that was more about me getting something off my chest that planting something in his heart. The only consolation I feel is that he's 3. He won't remember what I said, but his spirit will remain affected. I'm constructing his spirit right now; not his mind, not his body. I'm sculpting his spirit on which all else rests in the years to come. When I crush his spirit, I'm messing around with the foundation of his future. I have to remind myself of this when I'm caught in a moment of weak-willed emotion.
I'm not proud of what happened this morning. I needed to spend a moment writing it down so that I could process it and renounce it. I will do everything in my power to not ever let it happen again. "Lord, give me the strength to be the dad you desire me to be."