Even before I became a dad, I knew my kid was going to hate me someday.
At some point, probably somewhere around his 13th or 14th birthday, I’ll become Public Enemy #1. There’s no avoiding it; it’s biology! Most of us “hated” our parents when we were teens, for reasons both real and imagined (mostly imagined) and motivated by hormones, a need for independence, and, occasionally, outright shitty parents.
Now we’re the parents. The turntables have turned, and we’re going to be hated the same way we “hated” (your use of quotation marks may vary) our moms and dads.
I’m ready for it. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
Yesterday, I had something of a flash-forward to Detective Munch’s teenage years. Not in a “threenage” drama queen/bad attitude kind of way, although I’ve had plenty of those. This was more of a “this is it will be like in ten years” kind of way.
He wanted nothing to do with me. That wouldn’t have been so bad, if he hadn’t insisted on telling me so, repeatedly, and with gusto. When I needed his cooperation and he didn’t want to give it to me – which is understandable; he’s lazy af! – but also when I merely wanted a hug, or to chat, or to do anything with him at all. He was being very mean all day. It made Daddy sad.
I’m as aware as anyone that sometimes getting shunned by your kid is a welcome respite – as several people on Facebook reminded me last night. When he insists on having Mommy’s help, I have no choice but to step aside and let Mom and Buried take over. “Oh, you only want Mommy to get you out of your car seat? Or give you your bath? Or brush your teeth? Or read your bedtime story? That’s fine with me! I’ll be at the bar.”
A lot of the stuff you have to do as a parent is so boring/frustrating/inconvenient, getting out of it is an amazing stroke of luck. It’s kind of like getting drafted but failing the physical and getting sent home. Nothing you can do about it.
Other times it’s just a bummer. He’s barely four years old and my kid hates me already! Sometimes.
He’s always preferred his mother. Detective Munch is a mama’s boy and I’m okay with that; most little boys are, and Mom and Buried deserves it. (She’s much nicer than me.) I don’t begrudge him or Mom and Buried when he wants to snuggle with her or sit on her lap at the movies or next to her at the dinner table. They have a bond I’ll never be able to replicate. But I have a bond with my son too, and it sucks when he forgets about it.
It’s not his fault. Sometimes his bad behavior is his fault (believe me, I blame him whenever I can), but most of the time he’s just a kid who’s not totally aware of or in control of his emotions, let alone always perceptive enough to recognize when he’s hurting someone else’s feelings. Plus, he has moods like the rest of us, and just as there are days when I wake up and just want to hang out with my little guy, he has days when he has an anti-Daddy chip on his shoulder.
It’s days like yesterday, when those two moods collide, that I end up feeling like crap. It would probably be easier if he was mad at me for something specific, e.g., because I put him in time-out, or I wouldn’t let him watch another show. But even when that does happen, five minutes later he barely remembers what he wanted or why he didn’t get it, and also when it comes to discipline, I don’t really care if I’m the bad guy. It’s the general, unprovoked hate that stings the most.
I’m not gonna hold a grudge against the little jerk (but you can bet your ass he didn’t get dessert last night!) I still love him, and I’ll still love him when he’s fifteen and really wants nothing to do with me. Probably through gritted teeth, but whatever. I’m under no illusions about that, I just don’t want it just yet. Parenting is hard work, and the one thing that makes it worthwhile is your kid’s unconditional love.
Yesterday I went without it, and that wasn’t very fun.
At least until he went to bed. Because beer definitely still loves me.