Thursday 31 March 2011

Swearing at Your Kids is Good for Them!

It happened on a dark and stormy night about a year after Frack was born.  I needed to escape the insanity to help out with a church fundraiser and it was going to be the first time I left Daddy alone with both of the children.   Our farewell was grim.  I asked him if he was sure he could handle this and he assured me he could, but he definitely looked nervous.  Throwing him a little last minute advice I wished him luck and went on my way.

I knew things were bad when I got the phone call less than a half hour after arriving at the church.  The tone in Daddy's voice was even and dispassionate which I knew meant that he was just barely holding his shit together.  Everything is under control, he told me, he just needed to know where the mop was.  And did we have any more bleach anywhere?  My mommy senses started firing up.  When a man says he has things "under control" it generally means the same thing as when a woman says she is "fine".  In other words, exactly the opposite.  I demanded to know what was going on but he only came out with what sounded like a string of nonsense and disjointed phrases: "Just...there''s everywhere!....there's...nevermind.  Where's the mop, please?"

I tell myself that everything must be fine.  That my husband is an adult.  I have to let things go.  I can't be in control of every little thing.  I have to able to leave the house sometime, right?  I let him go handle whatever hell the kids have unleashed for the day, knowing I will hear all about it when I get home.

Do what I might, the minutes marched relentlessly on.  I was afraid of what I might come home to but I reasoned that I may as well get it over with knowing that at least the kids would be asleep.  I came home to a house that looked like someone had recently tried to clean up the evidence of a grisly murder in it.  There was a pale film of bleach everywhere that would have to be rinsed off repeatedly in the morning.

I heard my husband call out to me from the bomb shelter in the basement.  He sounded pretty normal, almost happy.  I went downstairs and he was sitting in a chair beneath the naked bulb that provided our mood lighting.  He appeared to be cleaning his shoes with a toothbrush and a razor blade.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Hmm?  Oh,'ll have to pardon me right now.  I'm a little drunk.  Don't worry, I waited until the kids were asleep.  I could deal with all the other stuff sober, but I just couldn't do the shoes.  For that I needed tequila."

"Are they (the kids) okay?"

"Oh yeah, like physically.  I think I may have traumatized Frick."

And from there my husband began to recount a tale of utter horror.  At first I was totally shocked.  As he continued my emotional responses ranged from outrage, pity, sadness, fear and then outrage again.  The injustices, indignities and other crimes against humanity that those little hellions inflicted on that poor man were unspeakable.  I don't think he could have told it in its entirety without being drunk and by the end, I was taking a few shots myself just to steady my nerves.  I went and got a warm blanket and comforted him with promises of calling the plumber in the morning and offering to cover up most of the damage with some strategically placed art.  I reassured him that the structural damage to the house is probably not as bad as he first thought and that we were meaning to fix that wall anyway.

And that's when something wonderful happened.

That's when the remorse kicked in.  Daddy lamented about how he yelled and screamed at Frick.  About how each new horror the kid invented simply shocked the foul language out of him because it was the only thing stopping him from punching something.  He was afraid that the volume and content of the screaming scared Frick stiff.

Now, I know this isn't really wonderful but it was for me in that moment because all of a sudden I realised that I am not a monster.  Our kids drove me to the point of acting like an insane screaming shrew and I spent many sleepless nights contemplating the special level of hell reserved for mothers like me.  There must be something fundamentally wrong with my personality for me to get so angry that I scream and yell obscenities around my sweet innocent babies.  I was always worried that Daddy would find out how angry the kids made me and then leave me because I was a horrible monster with no self-control.

The fact that they had the same effect on my husband was revelatory.  This is the way normal people respond to the things my kids do.  I'm not the monster, they are!  We're just doing the best we can here, people.  A human being can only take so much and we'd actually be doing the kids a disservice by downplaying that fact.  I mean, isn't it our job as parents to teach our kids that you just can't go around destroying people's homes and defecating wherever you want without any consequences?  And you can't teach them that the consequences are going to be a polite lecture about how disappointing said behaviour is.  That is just unrealistic. 

So drop those F-bombs people!  If you don't your kids will grow up to be assholes, but you won't know about it because death will have mercifully taken you in the form of an aneurysm caused by acute, pent up rage.

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