There are certain environments in which it’s not healthy for children to grow up: brothels, crack houses, religious cults, tour buses, Staten Island, etc.But you don’t have to be a pimp or Tommy Lee to create a negative atmosphere for your kids. Sometimes you just have to be in a bad mood.
It’s impossible to be a human being in this day and age and not get pissed off once in a while. But unless you’re the unbalanced coach of a college basketball team or my old college roommate, you probably know how to handle your anger. At least, you think you do, until you have a toddler.
I don’t care how mild-mannered you are, occasionally you’re gonna get mad. Maybe not at your child, but probably in his vicinity, and often about stuff he does.
Then you’ll really find out how good your anger management really is. (Not Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management,” or even Adam Sandler’s. They’re both terrible.)
This isn’t about my kid pissing me off, though god knows he does that a fair amount these days, and I suspect the frequency of those moments will only increase as he gets older. This is about the way having a little kid around, watching you like a hawk, looking to you for behavioral cues, forces you to consider how well you’re actually behaving. One of the struggles of parenting is realizing how your moods and your reactions and your relationships can influence your kids, and learning to manage your anger is a necessary part of being a good parent.
I don’t have a temper problem; I’m sure most of you don’t either. But regardless, there are some circumstances that have a tendency to raise my blood pressure; situations in which it’s harder to control myself, and not only because I am often cycling through some major steroids.
Here are a few everyday situations during which you might could use a little self-control, especially with a kid around.
Driving – It’s never easier to forget you have a child, and that he’s sitting right behind you, than when you’re driving. I don’t know if it’s the fact that you’re in a little metal cocoon or that things happen so fast or that so many people are such terrible drivers, but I never get more mad more quickly than when I’m behind the wheel. And while I am not psycho enough to bump someone or chase someone down or really do anything but yell, my son occasionally gets an earful of some bad language, which he tends to repeat in the most inopportune moments.
Watching Sports – Everyone who has a rooting interest in a sporting event or a particular team is prone to the occasional outburst -at the refs, the other team, the gods, that idiot in the fireman helmet – and not merely because they’re probably drinking while watching the game. One of the joys of being a father is sharing sports with your kids, and while watching them is a way to let loose and relax, turning them into a tension-fueled temper-fest is not the best way to introduce them.
MTV – I caught a few minutes of the Movie Awards last night (mostly because I was hoping to see the new Man of Steel trailer that’s rumored to come out this week), and thank god my kid was already asleep, because not only does witnessing the crappy entertainment today’s kids enjoy fill me with rage and disappointment, just considering my son’s teenage future is enough to make me reconsider keeping him around. I just can’t truck with someone in my house being a fan of Macklemore.
Marriage – When you’re in a relationship, arguments happen. Fights happen. Yelling happens. If you’re lucky, they happen when you’re out at dinner and the only people you scar are the waiter and the other patrons. Because I’d rather totally embarrass myself and be forced to do the conciliatory over-tip than have a drag-out fight in my own kitchen only to turn around and see my wide-eyed toddler shit his pants (which may or may not be related to the argument; sometimes he just shits his pants.).
Board games – I am not good at board games. I don’t mean I’m not good at them; I dominate. I’m just not great at playing them without getting pissed off. I’m not even some super-competitive a-hole, I just get tremendously frustrated at people’s inability to follow rules. If someone who’s not actually involved in the game yells out another answer, I swear to god Mrs. Mullenix I will flush that whole carton of Parliaments down the toilet. This aspect of my personality does not bode well for those rainy days when my son wants to play Candyland.
Life is hard. If you don’t stop and yell aloud once in a while, you might lose it, in a major way, somewhere down the line.
Life gets even harder when you have kids, and learning how to manage your anger, or at least find suitable outlets for it, can go a long way towards raising a well-adjusted, happy kid rather than one with some really unfortunate ideas about how to deal with his emotions.
Look, they learn how to throw those annoying little tantrums all by themselves, so it’s probably a good idea not to give them any more ideas just because the Dolphins lost again.