Sometimes, when my kids are particularly awful, I long for the simpler times when people could blame outside influences for their bravery.
In my day, all sorts of things were blamed — American TV, evil videos, video games, rap music — everything corrupted us, turned our brains to pulp, or taught us how to sass. My parents blamed heavy metal for my spectacular failure at Inter Cert and convinced themselves that it was thrash metal titans Megadeth that caused me to fail Irish (despite having spent three summers at Irish college) . It could only be the raw power of Marty Friedman’s shredding and Dave Mustaine’s snarling vocals that erased any understanding of the Irish language’s past tense from my brain.
Unfortunately we live in more enlightened times now and my parents would probably have to reluctantly accept that it wasn’t because of blistering guitar solos, it was because I was fat. Today we are all so emotionally aware that if we try to point the finger at an outside force in our children’s behavior, our hands twist like a cursed monkey paw and the finger ends up pointing right at us.
That said, I’m happy to report that I’m currently trying to blame the pandemic for my children’s recent descent into insanity.
It is difficult to determine when the problem started. We got through the last two years without too much whining and gnashing of teeth, there were a few months of joy and relief after the worst was over as we counted our blessings, and then we settled into the state we were in right now – the teenagers are killing each other, the little ones are having UFC fights whenever we turn our heads. Everyone seems to be angry almost all the time. Tantrums, tears and the occasional beating seem to be the order of the day for them. Of course, there may be some truth to my claim that all of this is a manifestation of some sort of mild PTSD from going through a pandemic, but in reality it probably has more to do with stress, and particularly our own stress as parents.
Stress is one of the things that goes with being a parent – from the moment you realize you’re pregnant, it’s a non-stop roller coaster of stress. It’s a bit like the scene in The abyss where the Ed Harris character has to wear a wet suit filled with liquid to withstand the pressure at the bottom of the sea without his head exploding. You can fight it and struggle to keep your head above it, but you are now immersed in stress from head to toe; it will surround and envelop you as you descend into the depths of the human experience that is parenthood. You just learn to live with it, inside it, underneath it.
Obviously I could overdo it a bit, and I’m sure there are moments when you as a parent don’t feel like you’re slowly drowning, but the stress is still there, and at times like these — with economic ones Insecurity, the world on the brink of a third world war and we’re waiting for the next virus to jump into our lives from an animal – you’ll be consumed by it.
When my wife is stressed she vacuums, sometimes vacuuming the whole house several times a day like a cross between Lady Macbeth and a Roomba. I manage my stress by walking around the house like a clenched fist. I’ve had to give up tea and coffee recently as I started twitching and scurrying like a limp hummingbird from the combination of caffeine and stress and only managed a few hours of sleep a night before waking up and laying quietly freaking out for a few hours the dawn.
A trickle runs down from all of this – stressed, distracted, distant parents don’t make a happy household.
Last week one of the little ones thought it would be fun to jump out from behind something and yell “surprise” at me. I, previously deep in anxious thoughts, yelled at him in terror, he started crying and ran off, presumably to take his anger out on his brother by putting him in a headlock. I know that this will all pass, that things will stabilize and our money worries will subside, the stress will subside for a while, but even in these lean times I would still pay good money to get into some, anything, debt to myself The children’s descent into insolence. Is Megadeth still going?
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/my-kids-are-behaving-appallingly-now-who-can-i-blame-for-that-41634867.html My kids are acting scary. Who can I blame now?