There is an absolute difference between fear and respect…
My kids respect their mother. They still say things to her sometimes that I don’t think a child should say to their mother, but overall they respect and love her. You can see it in how they interact with her. It’s one of the many reasons I am jealous that she gets to stay home with the kids. She doesn’t just “get” to stay home with them, she is the only logical choice. I could never do it. As hard as I feel my job can be, I could never do hers. Stay at home parents are amazing to me. Forget the myth that you turn on the TV and walk away, or the kids are running around wild while the wife is watching soap operas. That’s just insulting. If you think that way you clearly have your head up your own ass and have no idea what really goes on.
My kids fear me. Some may think that is a good thing, but it kills me. I don’t want the fear. I want the respect. You can see it in how they interact with me. Things are not fluid. They’re tentative. Sometimes hesitant. I am apparently the authority figure in the house. Sometimes when I ask a very simple question in the most gentle voice I can muster, I can see that all it would take is another word and they are going to cry. You can see it as they start to move towards or behind their mother. Maybe my size has some to do with it. I am 6 foot, 285 lbs. Not the biggest guy in the world but definitely not the smallest either. In the eyes of a 7 and 3 year old I am probably nothing but a huge mound of rage with weight issues. The Incredible Hulk with a thyroid condition is not the image I was going for.
I guess this is partially the price one pays for working a ridiculous amount of hours at work. It’s not the relationship I want with my kids. Not by a long shot. But it is the one I have and the one that I need to find a way to improve before it’s too late. I didn’t have the kind of relationship with my parents that I wanted to have. I grew up in front of a TV and wanted that Leave It To Beaver life. My parents got divorced when I was 6. I saw my dad every 3rd weekend until I reached my early teens. Dad says that’s when I wanted to spend more time with my friends than with him, so we slowly faded apart. We’re still not as close as we should be. Mom, on the other hand, had to raise me pretty much on her own, so I didn’t get to see her as much as I wanted to either, since she worked to support us. I don’t blame either of my parents for getting a divorce. They are both so different that I still can’t believe they ended up together in the first place. Also, don’t take this as using my parent’s divorce as an excuse either. I am 100% accountable for my own actions.
But I never had the relationship with either of my parents that I wanted to – until I got married. My mom, who I couldn’t stand the sight of when I was a rebellious teenager, is now one of my best friends. Who knows what happened. Maybe we both finally drifted to a middle ground that we could both relate to and it all just came together. But I know I worry that I will follow the same patterns and not get to have the relationship with my kids that I want until it is too late.
It must come down to time as well. Kids love when you spend time with them. It doesn’t even have to be doing anything special, just spending time together. I have a mother in law that does just that. She spends tons of time with them. They head down to the basement and play for hours. I don’t know if I could do that like she does. I want to, but it just doesn’t come natural. So I guess that’s another thing that really bothers me about it – it doesn’t come natural. I really have to work at it to make it happen. But if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Everything worth having is worth working for, right?
So I guess this concludes my therapy for the night. Writing this has actually helped me think some things through. I will make the effort to spend more time with them. To actually take “real” vacations. To build the family that I want us to be. We’ll see how this works out. Maybe the timing of this is perfect. Things are so chaotic at work right now that it is probably time to divert more of my energies towards my family, because they are clearly not appreciated at work anymore. But that’s an entirely different issue that I will also address in time.
OK, time’s up! There’s another patient that needs the couch for their therapy session next so I’ll just sign off until next time.