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Dad of a beautiful little girl. Husband to an amazing woman. Son and sibling of a perfectly weird and wonderful family.

When Showing Up Isn’t Enough

Dear Malin Reese,

As you draw nearer to two-years-old, your vocabulary skyrockets on a weekly basis. You’re becoming more aware of your physical capabilities and more importantly your limitations. I don’t have any reference point but I also think you are incredibly intuitive for your age. You imitate facial expressions like a mimic savant. Most important, you remain sweet and approachable and full of love. But with all of this amazing advancement, you’ve also begun to groom a growing dark side. It bubbles to the surface in two-minute intervals and happens a few times a day.

You’re perfecting the art of the meltdown.

These monsoons of irrationality bring about heavy crying, wild thrashing and screaming that reach a pitch below shattering glass. Often times, the meltdowns aren’t prompted by any real calamity. The other day, we walked into the house and I took off your cardigan. I didn’t even have time to lay it across the couch before you freaked out. You flung yourself to the floor and every negative emotion exploded out of you. Malin, I get it. I love cardigans too. They’re versatile and fashionable. My closet has a shameful amount of them. But you know what I do when I take mine off? I hang it up and move on with my day. A few days before that meltdown, you had another epic freak-out. Did we take away your favorite toy or banish you from playing with the Ipad? Nope, your Mom went into the downstairs bathroom to go pee and closed the door. You tried to interrupt her 30 seconds of peace by opening the door and when you couldn’t, you stomped your bare feet hard into our wood floors. Then there was the requisite body fling to the ground and off you went into two minutes of crying and screaming.

Your meltdowns illicit a variety of responses from me. Sometimes they’re amusing simply for the absurdity. Most times they are just frustrating. When I’m alone with you, I try my best to keep a calm demeanor and talk you through it. Other times, I leave you in your little rage area and let you figure it out on your own. But other times, I mirror your frustration and match your irrationality by raising my voice. It is the absolute worst response and usually just heightens the hysteria. My worst parenting moments come at your worst moments.

I’m embarrassed by this. Partly because I don’t want you to associate discipline directed at you with fear or intimidation. If I raise my voice at you, I open up that possibility. The other part of it is that I’m being a shitty, immature parent. You’re almost a toddler. Irrationality is going to be a big part of your life. I helped make you and now it’s my job to help mold you.

I’m realizing more and more how little I know about this parenting gig. I think I get kudos from other people for just showing up and loving you full-throttle. That’s not enough anymore. Your personal development is far outpacing my parental development. Sometimes, I think it’d be nice for you to slow down a bit but then I quickly realize I owe it to you to catch up. I’ll try to keep pace when I get there.

Love,

Dad

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3 Comments on “When Showing Up Isn’t Enough”

  1. The Rookie Dad October 25, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    I can not count the times that I would react in the same way as you when the Rookie would have one of his epic meltdowns. In fact, I still react in a way that is somewhat embarrassing to me. I tend to shut down and let him deal with it on his own. Yet, there are times when I look like the Dad of the Year in calming him down.

    It is moments like this that help us grow as parents and our children grow as children.

    • clindvall24 October 27, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      Well said. I’m still pretty green in the whole parenting department but I hope documenting my shortcomings propels me to be better in all phases of life.

  2. ralphamsden November 13, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    She’s a toddler, and you’re a toddler as a parent. Makes sense that you feel shitty sometimes. Great post buddy.

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