Parenting, it turns out, is not all sunshine and lollipops. It can be, for me anyway, an emotionally pummelling trial. But as time goes on, some things do get a little easier.
I’ll never forget the first time my son told me that he hated me. There was a tense bedtime standoff. I insisted that he needed to go to bed. He dropped the H-bomb.
“I hate you, Daddy!” He stamped.
The air filled with the Adagio for Strings. We were both shocked. Me most of all. I had to hug him for a good ten minutes while I rode the wave of my own emotions. It was like a gut punch. The air was knocked out of me.
Finally we reconciled. I agreed to put off bedtime, and we agreed the we did love each other after all. Later I told my wife about the incident. I got tremulous. She gave me a hug.
Fast forward a couple of years. Now I have three children. Each of them, in their own unique, delightful, fascinating way, spend most of their time each day trying to break my mind and trample me into the dust. Far from reasoned, sensible negotiations, at least eight times a day I have to pile in like a prison guard trying to quell a riot. They don’t want to do anything I want them to do, and they are prepared to use any means not to do it. It never seems to get any easier. Accept for one thing.
“Right! That’s it! Tooth brushing! Now!” I holler. I never used to holler.
“No!” My son screams at me, shaking a defiant fist at me like a cross between Spartacus and Churchill. “Never!”
“Tooth brushing right now or no more telly. Ever. End of telly. The telly goes to charity. Or to the dump. To be smashed into tiny pieces so no other children can watch it either. Five, four, three, two-”
“I hate you Daddy!!”
“Yeah. Whatever. Tooth brushing. Now.”