My name is Dad and Buried, and I’m a No-aholic.
I tell Detective Munch “no” too much, I say “stop” too much, and I scold him too much, and I bark at him too much. Basically, I’m one big buzzkill for a normal five-year-old kid with energy to burn and a small space in which to burn it.
It’s no wonder he prefers Mom and Buried.
It’s gotten pretty bad lately as the stress of a new baby, my impending entry into middle-age, and various other factors are contributing to my too-short temper and too-sensitive trigger. But, as they say, knowing is half the battle, especially since there’s no way I’ll solve this without acknowledging and consciously working on it. So that’s what I’m doing today. Because too much no-ing makes me feel like a bad dad, and I want to be a better one.
Some of my no-ing is justified; he’s five years old. But lately it’s becoming a reflex, and I find myself saying no before I even stop to consider whether I really should. My stress and frustration and exhaustion get the best of me and, before I know it, half of my interactions with my five-year-old become me telling him to stop doing something.
Sometimes it’s concern for his safety, which is totally legitimate, because five-year-olds are morons. But most of the time, the danger he’s in isn’t exactly life-threatening, and it might actually do him so good to learn what happens when he foolishly tries to climb the back of a wobbly chair.
Sometimes it’s concern for the safety of his brother, which is also totally legitimate, because despite how much he loves The Hammer, he often underestimates his own strength and weight and he doesn’t have a strong grasp on how fragile babies are. But constantly snapping at him that he’s going to hurt his brother is just going to make him resent his brother.
Sometimes it’s concern for the safety of objects, like the TV, and the tablet, and the lamp, and the iPhone, and the windows, which is totally legitimate, because those things are expensive, and money doesn’t grow on trees, and he doesn’t have a job so who’s gonna pay for this stuff goddammit? But constantly warning him that he might break something is just going to make him think I value my “stuff” more than I value him.
Sometimes it makes sense, but put it all together and it’s simply too much. It’s just a big wall of NO! and that’s no good for anybody.
My relentless no-ing is starting to define my parenting. If I don’t get a handle on it it’s going to define me as a father, at least in my son’s eyes. It isn’t good for my relationship with him or for his development as a person.
When all you do is neg somebody, eventually they stop expecting anything else, so it becomes white noise, and it becomes a reason to avoid and ignore the person who keeps scolding them. Even worse, it contributes to him being more cautious and tentative than I want him to be.
I don’t want to raise a timid kid who is reluctant to fail because he’s always expecting admonishment. I want to raise a kid who knows right from wrong, of course, and uses common sense to keep himself and others around him safe, but I also want to raise a kid who is willing to take chances. I want to raise a kid who knows that sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. I don’t want him to walk on eggshells his entire life, and I certainly don’t want my constant negativity to be the reason why.
I need to lighten up before I damage both my son and our relationship. I need to pick my battles. Not every situation is life or death, and I have to curb my tendency to let my bad day at work or bad night’s sleep dominate my mood so much that I am the mean ogre devoted to ruining my kid’s fun. I am okay with being the bad cop, but that doesn’t mean I need to police everything he does.
This is a process, and I’m not suddenly going to become Captain Do Whatever You Want, neither overnight nor after I complete my twelve steps. But I am going to try to resist the instinct to constantly shut my son down and to give him more leeway to simply be a kid. After all, he’s a pretty good one, and the last thing I want is to see that change as a result of my shitty parenting.
My name is Dad and Buried, and I’m a No-aholic. But I’m trying not to be.