I set myself up for failure yesterday. And I nearly ruined what had been an otherwise great day.
Locked and cocked
When we were growing up, my brother used to utter the phrase, “No attention span, wiener dog,” when I’d flip through the channels at lightning speed. He’d get annoyed because he couldn’t understand how I could decide on or pass on a show after seeing maybe 0.5 seconds of it before moving onto the next channel.
I do have a pretty decent attention span these days. However, when it’s locked and cocked, I get very easily agitated when someone or something tries to break it.
I have taken a keen interest in “Clash Royale.” I won’t go into why I like it; just know that it’s my cup o’ tea.
But during the three or so minutes during a battle, it requires my full attention.
“Three minutes,” you might say. “Why, that’s no time at all.” And you’re mostly right.
But my boys can go from best pals to barroom brawlers in about half that time. Especially when I’m not paying attention to them.
So, let’s say you add me, fully concentrating on a game, a couple of boys who (on some level) yearn for my attention, and throw in the fact that I had forgotten to take my anxiety medication that evening.
What kind of monster are you envisioning me becoming?
Perhaps a forked-tongue, venom-spitting wyrm? Or maybe a pudgy, mopey, Jim Henson-esque muppet oaf who lies on the couch and sobs quietly to himself? Maybe something different altogether?
I was the wyrm, then the mope monster.
Finding the handle
I lost my shit. Told the boys to get their asses in the shower and not to fuck around. I used those words. As loud as I could. My throat stung afterward.
Then I took my medicine, paced around for a minute and fell onto the couch. I covered myself with a blanket and sobbed.
The guilt I feel at recalling my sons’ terrified faces after I screamed at them doesn’t subside very easily.
When I heard the shower go off, I forced myself up and went to the kitchen to do the dishes. I didn’t want them to see that I had cried.
That’s something that neither Logan or Luke have ever seen.
Now, I’m not a macho type of man. And I don’t begrudge a man (or woman, for that matter) for shedding tears. It’s a natural response to intense emotions.
But I didn’t want the boys to see my face because I was ashamed. And I’d rather them remember the first time seeing me cry for a different, happier reason (e.g. weddings, birth of grandchildren, shit like that).
I know Lacey reads my posts and I’m not trying to curry favor when I heap praise on her.
But she’s the best. She’s my dream come true.
And she shoots straight with me. After listening to me vent my frustrations after we put the boys to bed, she told me what I knew, but didn’t want to hear: I’m responsible for how shitty the evening went.
I should have paid attention to the kids. Video games, while entertaining, can wait. All my other interests can wait.
We only have a few more precious years left where they want our attention. And I wasted some of that time last night. On something that can wait.
If tomorrow never comes
In my pursuit of a regret-free life, I need to be a better father by recognizing and taking advantage of the time I have with my boys.
We have a great foundation. But it can always get better.
I think about it this way, too: If I died last night, or much worse, if one of the boys had, would I have wanted the last time I was with them to be as the fun Daddy Bear who makes them laugh? Or would I rather be the screaming demon from hell who terrified them?
It’s not a difficult choice. It’s not even close.