Just Flow, Dad.

I’m supposed to be a “play-oriented, calm, flowy and creative” parent, right? I’m trying, but I fear that battle is causing my kids to experience me as inconsistant and moody. Sometimes I’m capable of redirecting their behavior to something more positive:

“Hey kiddo pants! Instead of squirting all the lotion in the toilet, let’s do an experiment to see what happens to cheese when we leave it in the sun. Hurray! Project! Let’s put on our super duper lab coats and goggles!”

And sometimes I’m not.

Far more commonly it’s “COME ON! NO LOTION IN THE TOILET!” followed by a defeated sigh and a long gaze at my phone.

From their perspective, then, moisturizing the toilet can result in a chipper detour or a terse scolding from a tired old man. I’m unpredictable and that’s probably one of the worst things a parent can be, right? I suppose it’s worse to be a consistent dick, but you get the point.

I’m subscribed to a parenting email called “The Daily Groove,” which, as the name suggests, sends me daily nuggets of wisdom  about being “present” and generally “groovy.” But what if that’s not the kind of person I am? How can I (or we, if you’re feeling similarly) merge the most deeply ingrained aspects of our personalities with the attitude we’re all told is best for the well-being of our children?

In other words, How can I be myself and not screw up my kids?

That’s a truth shrouded in hyperbole. I’m a hot blooded avoider — equal parts Latin and Swiss (though not genetically). When shit goes down, I’m either in the middle of it, yelling and fixing, or off in the corner cleaning something and visualizing my safe place.

There’s  pressure to be a “better” person after becoming a parent. We’re setting an example from which unformed minds will learn.  But we’re expected to become more patient and flexible, while surrounded by uncooperative people we’re hopelessly in love with.

It’s like trying to cure someone’s foot fetish by getting them a job in the women’s shoe department — too many triggers. People go on retreats and meditation blobbidy blah blahs to find their center and relax, yet somehow, I’m expected to do the same thing while a 2 year-old plays the tambourine in my ear?

What’s interesting, however, is that the coolest adults I know have complicated parents, or grew up in less than optimal situations. It might have been difficult, but somehow fostered a uniqueness and strength.

People who had amazingly “groovy” upbringings seem to end up in rehab, or worse, working at a boutique moccasin shop in Taos, New Mexico.

There must be a middle ground between honest/real/true and all super flowy and stuff.  The trick is to find it without losing yourself, or your integrity.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here http://bit.ly/1exfm34. Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

12 comments On Just Flow, Dad.

  • I'm great at being patient and kind to my kids. You know… until they wake up. And then I huddle in a corner and cry while rocking back and forth. (Okay, maybe it's not THAT bad.)

  • 'Hot blooded avoider' – genius! Last night, my 3 year old was trying to unbutton a dress shirt before bed and I was groovin'. I mean patient, encouraging, all that sh*t, for 45 minutes! Yeah, I finally had to help (and by help I mean haul the shirt off of a screaming struggling child who wanted to do it himself). He may have also been told that he'll be wearing t-shirts 'til he's 40 if he doesn't knock it off. It's a delicate balancing act, this parenting, and I have all the grace and poise of a crack head rhinocerous.

  • I don't have kids yet so I can't weigh in on how hard the balance must be, but my brother and my slightly less than optimal childhoods and less than perfect parents turned us into pretty strong, great-friends-with-each-other adults. And we still think our parents are awesome (a balance we're all pretty proud of). Anyway, I'm not there yet, but I think a little honest, non-groovy behavior is a good thing.

  • One would think the ongoing challenge of a toddler would give us the strength to deal with situations better as they get older not regress towards "bad "words and actions. Like when my son sits or runs a car over my head for the 10th time. "Cars go on the floor not on Daddy's head". turns into "Really off my head or that car is gone ! I can only strive for the first one the next 10 times.

  • Oh my gosh I know! I am so tired of being patient and kind!! LOL Its funny, when my son was really little I always had the ability to supress my swearing. But now that he is nine, somehow those words will not stay inside my mouth in those frustrating moments..

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