Disciplinarian

I think it’s human nature to every now and again try to ‘one-up’ someone or show off in front of others.  I am not exactly sure why we do this.  Maybe it’s a naturally occurring reaction to outside pressures, like some innate need to rise above the rest.  The egotistical equivalent of survival of the fittest.  And every so often I find myself doing that with my kids.

Unfortunately, it’s not in the manner in which you might be thinking.  I tend to be very humble when it comes to publicly spouting about the talents and achievements of my kids.  Don’t get me wrong.  In private and one-on-one, I tell them repeatedly how great they are and how proud they make me.  My kids have no bigger fan than me.

But when it comes to keeping them in line, I like to show them – and everyone else for that matter – who’s boss.  I have no qualms about raising my voice to them.  In their lifetime, they have come to learn the volume battle is one they will never win.  If push comes to shove, I also have no problems with a swift hand to their bottoms.  It’s immediate, it grabs their attention, and it instantaneously brings them down from their mischievous high.

Truth be told, I almost never have to resort to anything physical with Natalie.  Just the mere stating of her name, in Spanish and in that ‘fatherly’ tone, is enough to set her straight for a week.  The other one, however, is a completely different story.  For as sweet and loving and affectionate as Daniel can be, there are times I am convinced he was developed in a secret lab by DCS just to test my limits.  I can see the government scientists now.  “Let’s program him to cry uncontrollably in large, public settings once the ‘no sleep’ parameter has reached 7.15 hours.  Excellent!”

So as tolerant and patient as I try to be, there are times when my thresholds are exceeded.  “They’re just kids.  They’re just having fun.  They didn’t mean to spill that bright, red, hard to clean kool-aid on my new, beige, perfectly spot-free carpet.  It’s okay……..”  I think one of the unspoken truths is that the hardest part of parenting is in keeping one’s cool.  It’s taking the 10 seconds …… okay, 30 seconds ….. to absorb the situation and not fly off the handle.  It is really more challenging than most people would imagine, especially after a long day at work dealing with people who might as well be 5 years-old themselves.

“But you have such great kids” people tell me.  “Natalie and Daniel are precious.  They are little angels!”  Well, first of all, thank you.    And I agree my kids are precious and little angels.  They really are great kids.  But I like to think the reason they are such good kids is because I can be and have been so hard on them.  It’s because they understand boundaries, limits and the consequence that comes with overstepping them.  As much as I let them be kids, they both know what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

People used to give my parents grief for being so hard on my brother and me.  I can guarantee you that I would not be the person I am now if they had not.  And I am the first to admit that times have changed.  I can’t imagine being – and the law won’t allow me to be – the type of physical disciplinarian my dad was to me.  And that was nothing compared to what my mom and dad went through with their respective parents.

At the end of the day, however, I firmly believe my kids will look back at the limits I impose on them and thank me.  I know I thank my parents for being tough on me because I have a better appreciation for the gifts I have been given and the many things I have achieved.   So whenever someone tells me, “You have such well behaved children”, I smile and thank them.  And inside I tell myself, “damn straight!”  Guess it’s just my way of showing off.

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