I have a big problem as a dad.
For the most part, my kids are wonderful. Like most kids, they have their infuriating moments. But that’s not the problem of which I speak. It may help for me to describe one such scenario.
My family and I are in Portland for a brief trip. As I drove around an unfamiliar location, my daughter asked the typical question kids ask as a form of advanced psychological torture, “Are we there yet?”
This wasn’t so bad. My wife calmly explained to my daughter not to ask that again because she’d already done so several hundred times. She then asked my daughter what the consequence should be if she asks again and they started negotiating about the consequence of that action.
Not long after, my daughter repeatedly poked my ear with a stick made of straws as I drove. We have a strict and, in my humble opinion, eminently reasonable rule not to distract the driver. My wife calmly told my daughter that the consequence of that action next time would be to break the stick.
Now if you’ve ever seen or met my daughter, she’s a delightful joyful child who’s usually all bright eyes and big smiles. She can also be a bit mercurial. Like most kids, that temper burns a little hotter when she’s hungry.
At being admonished, she started whimpering and crying. But then, out of nowhere, she screams with the full fury of her six year old being, “Try it and I’ll kill you!”
My eyes went wide and I looked at my wife in shock mouthing “Holy fuck!” As I searched for the words to convey to my daughter the gravity of how wrong it was to say that, I bust out laughing. Out loud. Uncontrollably.
The intense incongruity of this little bundle of cuteness screaming such an over the top aggressive threat was too comical and I could not keep a straight face.
Of course, this is the wrong reaction for so many reasons. For one, it could encourage such behavior. Or worse, it might appear that I’m mocking her feelings.
And this is my problem. This isn’t the first time she let out her outsized rage that spurred uncontrollable laughter on my part. Of course I struggle to take a serious tone and talk through her feelings with her, but I can’t help to take an outside view of the situation and see how funny it is.
Fortunately, we apply the principle of failure and repair and talked it through after my laughter subsided. She recognized her words were hurtful and apologized. We then had lunch and she’s back to her sweet full of joy self. Until next time.