It’s 8:13pm. I stand outside the bedroom door with my ear pressed tight enough to hear the wall clock ticking on the other side. One hand rests gently on the door handle. Warnings were given as covers were pulled and foreheads kissed. “If I have to come in here I will make up for all the other punishment I didn’t give you earlier tonight”. That was 25 minutes ago. Since then my wife has gone in to warn them “Don’t make dad come in here”, but it was to no avail. I finally went in, telling them they were making my a liar if I didn’t punish them for talking and staying awake. I give them one more chance, saying “I will be right outside the door and if I even hear your teddy bear cough I will come in here so fast you won’t know what happened.”
It’s 8:14pm. Not a sound. I smile to myself remembering the Bill Cosby tape we listened to growing up. He told how his dad would tell them he put invisible poisonous snakes all around their bed and if they got up, the snakes would bite them and they would die until morning. Yes, I’ve become that kind of dad. This came after I spent 20 minutes tonight yelling at my oldest son. As he was getting tucked in last night he told my wife yesterday was the worst day ever. He slept in (till 7am) watched cartoons till 11am, had his favorite Shells & Cheese for lunch, didn’t have to take a nap, played Foosball with mom, and yet the day was ruined because he was forced to go to the splash park on a 95 degree day and play with other kids in the water. The younger son, sat there too afraid to breath as I laid out what I would do to all the toys, stuffed animals, play time, tree forts, and anything else they held dear if he didn’t learn to be thankful and respect his mother. It’s amazing how creatively insane a father can get trying to raise two children.
It’s an unwritten law of the universe. Mom loves them, kisses their owies, and tells them “I’ll go get dad to punish you”. I don’t like punishing my kids. I hate it more than anything. They don’t realize how easily I would lavish every toy they could ever dream of upon them. Daily trips to Chuck E. Cheese would be in order. Yet my time is spent watching timeout timers or packing up toys that must be earned back.
Would being more permissive help? I’ve tried the reward route. Earning money for good deeds and behavior. It worked for several weeks and the positive reinforcement, along with shiny quarters to fill the piggy bank, flowed freely. But then it slowly faded. Grumpy behavior came out again. Sadly as I share my tales of woe with co-workers they laugh and say, it’s not going to get any better. So I am relegated to the “bad guy”, with teenage years of adolescence angst in sight. And somehow I hope that I can balance “Mean Dad” with enough positive memories that at the end of this life they will know the “Bad Guy” was really the good guy, trying to help them become good guys in life.