“Okay guys, you can paint, but I’m going to screw the caps off of the paint, leave them that way, we’re not pouring them into the egg carton, and please, be sure to just dip, dip, paint.”
H. typically turns “dip, dip, paint” into “slosh, slosh, smudge” on her body, clothes, table, or floor; one of these days she’ll get it, just like I will “get” not to include a “what we’re not going to do” in my list of instructions.
When we paint, I usually put a blanket underneath the table, put their painting shirts on, and do it with them. I was “knee-deep” in writing, and, after they came into my office, for the third time, wanting to paint, I said yes. I had hoped they’d be happy with Play-Doh, as I tried to get a few things done, but they, A. and her apprentice, saw that Dad had his ‘focused face’ on, and would cave-in in three or less “askings”.
It’s a game akin to ‘Name That Tune’:
“I can get my Dad to say yes in three begs.” Says kid 1.
“I can get it in two begs.” Says kid 2.
Suited announcer chimes in “Get that Dad to say yes”.
‘Sweet’ children, seeking a “yes” to an activity that they know will end in disaster, approach unsuspecting Dads.
“But Dad I really, really want to see if we can stack the chairs to the ceiling and climb them like a ladder.”
“No, that’s not a good idea” Dad answers on instinct.
Cheesy announcer, with a swing of the arm says “Okay, you have one more beg, now, get him to say yes.”
“The Dad” is now changing the oil on his ’88 Honda Accord; he’s underneath his “Susie”, which is being held up by a jack more suitable for lifting a trike.
“Dad, we have this great idea, Bill’s Dad thought of it, we want to stack the chairs and see if we can touch the ceiling. Ya’ think we can?” The last question suggesting, “Wouldn’t you be proud of me?” Dad huffs, grunts, and in mid-elation after getting the drain valve off, with the pan underneath, he says yes. High-fives all around, and they move onto the next unsuspecting Dad.
I should have known better, I did know better, but the thought of having them occupied for a half hour, even if baths had to follow, lured me in.
I shot out of the office a few moments after hearing “H. ahh that was all the yellow.” shouted by A., to find A. had taken it upon herself to pour the paint into an egg carton, to make it easier to dip, and little sister followed suit, spilling it on table and floor. Instead of being proud of their ingenuity and independence, I was upset that, well, honestly looking back, I was upset that they took me from what I was doing. I know it sounds selfish. It was a “Man, can’t I just get five more minutes.” moment, but I focused on their lack of following directions and the spilled paint, not why I was really upset.
I have varying degrees of showing that I am not happy with a situation. Most of the time, when the girls do something that I don’t approve of, hitting one another, putting stickers on the floor, or other things “kids” do, I am pretty mellow, but firm, and give them an alternative activity “Put the stickers on paper, not the floor.” And that is ideal, that is calm Dad, but that is not always reality when spending as much time as we do together. When I need a slice of “me” time in the day, (I know, “me” time, but without it, without my release into the world, whether through writing, talking to another parent, or working out, I am not as good as I need to be), and I can’t get it, I am not as calm as I should be.
So, I did not react calmly to the paint spill. I was firm, but the words were coming through pursed lips and teeth, not open mouth and eyes. I was taking out anger, rather than teaching a lesson, and, after “coming down”, I realized how “freaky” I must have looked to the girls, and it bothered me. It didn’t bother me that I was upset; it bothered me that I was expressing selfish anger, rather than disapproval of not following directions. My feelings were coming from a negative/selfish place, not a firm, constructive, teaching-a-lesson place. I could see the difference in their eyes, and the reflections they gave back to me.
We decided it was time for a snack, and all felt better after a glass of lemonade and bowl of cheddar bunnies.
My Papa Sense tells me:
We all get upset, we all lose our “cool”, and we all find ourselves in moments when we aren’t controlling ourselves in a manner that we are proud of. With kids, I think that it is important that they see many sides of emotions, that they are exposed to real/raw feelings, and more importantly, that they know people still love one another – even when they get upset with them. I know I could have staved off the whole situation if I wouldn’t have had unrealistic expectations (would have had realistic expectations), if I would have planned better, but I don’t want to live my life planning for the worst, and always having “realistic” expectations. This is a change for me, and one that I am consciously working on, we can’t plan for everything, and beating my head against the wall in that effort is proving to be something I want to move away from. Real emotions come out when we aren’t in control, real emotions lead to real growth?