My wife is probably the smartest person I know. Her favorite things to say are “It can’t be that hard,” (‘Hey, let’s make our own chapstick! It can’t be that hard!‘) and “I’m just a housewife! How come I can figure it out and they can’t?!?” Her mother reminds her occasionally that she tests in the top 1% of everything except visual relationships, and that she’s not normal like that.
So it should come as no surprise that, on one of our recent trips to the counselor, he told me a bunch of stuff that I had already heard before. On the way home from the visit, my wife asked me what I thought about what he said, and I said, “I wasn’t impressed — it was all stuff I had heard before.”
She EXPLODED IN RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION! “Of course you’ve heard it all before! This is stuff I’ve been telling you for YEARS!! Don’t you think this should be a wake-up call? If this is stuff you’ve heard before, why haven’t you figured it out yet?!?”
She’s Italian. She yells a lot. Usually with her hands, but in this case, she was driving, so it was only one of them.
The point was, she was right. She had been telling me this stuff for years, but because she’s just a housewife, I never really listened. I shrugged her off — and then, because I had shrugged her off, I was extending that shrug-off to what the counselor had told me, as well.
Sometimes, I’m really dumb.
Here’s what the counselor had been telling me:
- You have to be consistent if you want your child to understand that you’re serious.
- The best way to kill a behavior is not to punish it — it’s to ignore it.
- You can’t rebuke first — you have to connect with your kid before you can correct his behavior.
- Your child learns far more from your behavior than he learns from your words — model how you want him to act.
I have to admit, I’m still really really bad at that last one. I constantly realize, too late, that if I caught my son acting like I just did, I’d want to slap him. Every time I do, I try to imagine how much my wife must want to slap me.
I have no idea how it is that my wife managed to figure all of this stuff out, and I’m completely clueless. She’s just a housewife. But she’s also a mother — she’s quite possibly the best mother I’ve ever met (she would tell you that her mother is the best mother I’ve ever met), and I’m eternally grateful that my son has her. And while I’m only just learning how to be a father, I can at least have some confidence in the fact that my son has at least one excellent parent.
I’m determined to catch up. I don’t know how I’m going to do it – after all, I’m just a husband.
…except I’m not. Not any more. I have Fatherhood. Just like my wife isn’t just a housewife because she’s a mother, I’ve decided that I have superpowers, too. I don’t know what they are yet, but I’m pretty sure it has little to do with playing catch. I’ve put a few books on hold at the local library and we’ve ordered a book that my counselor called “the definitive scientific research on fathers’ roles in childrens’ lives.” (Thank you, Abe Books, for turning a $67 purchase into a $12 one.) I don’t know how much I’m going to read every day, but I’m going to replace my usual bathroom Kindle-gaming with reading about what exactly I’m “supposed” to be to my son. Then I’ll toss it all aside and figure it out with my wife.
Hopefully, by the time he’s old enough to start having friends over for dinner, I’ll have some vague notion of what the hell I’m doing — or supposed to be doing — for him. 🙂