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Sleeping with Guilt

The kids were playing "I Scream As Loudly As I Can Then You Run To Me Then I Run Away Then You Run And Scream." Perhaps you've heard of it.

"Everyone in the car. We're going to Stop N Shop," I said. Stop N Shop is my answer when I've got nothing left - no patience, no plan, no parenting magic. We pick a cart and roll from aisle to aisle. Usually we buy nothing. Sometimes we grab raspberries or a magazine, but the groceries are unimportant. I make these trips to see other adults, to convince myself that life isn't restricted to my 12' x 12' living room and to distract the kids with the lobster tank.

My wife mumbled something about picking up a coffee from Dunkin Donuts on the way home, which the kids overheard (of course). We got into the grocery store and the kids amped up the crazy level. William was standing in his seat (he can defeat the lap strap) while Grace sprinted from aisle to aisle. I forced the words "Gracie, get over here NOW. I am NOT kidding," through my teeth, ignoring The Look from the other parents. (You know The Look.)

I placed some milk into the cart, ignoring pleas to visit "the toy path," as Grace calls it. We checked out and got into the car. "Can we get our doughnuts now?" Grace asked.

"No," I said. "We're not going to Dunkin Donuts today. You were horrible in the store."

She welled up instantly. "But daaaad..."

"I don't want to talk about it anymore, Grace," I said, which is what I say when I'm not interested in her pointless back-and-forth. Well, she started sobbing as if I had killed her dog, which prompted William to do the same. "Ugh, this is a nightmare," I said, a little louder than I should have.

"No it's not!" Grace screamed. "You're bad, daddy!" she said. "This is a sad day!"

Once we were back home, the three of us were feeling worse than before we left, and I went upstairs to take a break.

Once they were in bed, Grace was in better spirits, but I still felt horrible. I know that discipline is important. That occasionally putting my foot down is better than letting them develop into demanding monsters. My wife — who is the smart one — says that discipline is teaching. We've got to teach these tiny human beings to be appropriate members of society. Teachers are always saying annoying things like this.

All I know is that I feel like garbage for hurting my little girl.

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