Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
Yesterday I was mad. Really mad. Afer a really early morning of hard work, all I needed to do was print. 25 minutes to spare, no problem. I hit print…problem. I mess with the printer for 10 minutes… problem. I switch accounts on our Stone Age iMac…problem. It is taking forever. All I can do is wait and yell at the screen. Ellie decided this was the perfect time to crawl into my lap. You have always been very brave. I count it a personal victory that I managed not to throw you or any other object nearby through the computer screen. At one point your crawled under the table as slammed my fist into the surface with impatience. As you looked up quizzically, I smiled through gritted teeth. I looked at you briefly and then lied to the computer screen, explaining that I was swatting a fly. You saw straight through me. Some physical cues are obvious and some explanations are dead giveaways.
“Daddy are you frustrated?” …. BINGO
Being angry is a funny thing, because it is so rarely the right response. What good could anger produce in our modern world? Now, I suppose there is a kind of righteous indignation that inspires people to fight injustice and conquer all kinds of evils. But most of the time my run of the mill, red-hot emotional flashes are an exercise in futility. I see that now because I have watched you two get angry. Seeing your brother burst into tears over a door that closes for his own good evokes a special kind of pity. Watching your sister spit, spin, and shake with rage over being stuck inside her own shirt during an attempted change would be hilarious if it were not so dramatically upsetting. (Or vice versa, I’m not sure which is more true.)
What goes on in these tiny moments is that we choose to tell ourselves a tiny story. A story where we are the victim. That door has eternally separated you from your one true dream of swimming in the toilet. That shirt is trapping you with the physical impossibility of making it into your jammers. That computer has stolen my time and broadcast a grossly inaccurate visage of my irresponsibilty into the entire working world.
What can one do in the face of such inconsequential injustice? Flip the script. Cast yourself as the hero rather than the victim. That closed door has awakened you to the world of opportunity waiting in the living room. That shirt has challenged you to new levels of physical dexterity. That computer has presented the opportunity to prove once again that I am clutch under pressure. A new script, with a fresh story can change things in an instant and impact every moment after.
You want to know what actually happened with the printing fiasco? I left ten minutes later than I planned. I got to my meeting on time instead of early and the whole thing did not matter in the least. It just wasn’t even a big deal at all. Was it worth all of my huffing and puffing and stomping and pounding? Not even a little bit.
Getting needlessly angry every now and again should remind you how easy it can be to let the unimportant become the obsession of daily life. The cliche that there are bigger fish to fry is spot on. You can’t go around sweating the small stuff. There are an endless number of frustrations in the world were we willing to submit to fairtales they foist upon us. But life is too short to spend even a second spinning lies to distract you from my silliness and starring through clenched jaws at an object of frustration. My time is best spent looking you right in the eyes and loving every moment of it.