Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mr. Mean Genes

"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." ~Robert Fulghum

There are days when I truly think my eyes, my ears, my mind are all deceiving me. Where I can't believe what I'm seeing, hearing, experiencing. I simply cannot fathom how my daughter can be so irrational, so stubborn, so moody at times.

Then it dawns on me... and I realize who her father is.

Not only does the acorn not fall far from the tree, but it falls with enough force and velocity to knock you out cold.

There are days when I can be - hell, I am - pretty much the surliest son of a b1tch you know. A real pain in the a$$. Disagreeable. Disingenuous. Disgusting, really. Stressed and angry and frustrated. When the insecurities meet the idiosyncrasies, and the annoyances meet the aggravations. I just can't get out of a funk. I know it. You know it. In fact, I have no problem letting you know it. Because it's your problem, not mine.

At least, it used to be like that. Before fatherhood. I've been working on it. It's a work in process.

Despite my best efforts to hide it, she can tell when I'm in a bad mood. Even when it isn't obvious. Even when I am hiding it. She knows. And she doesn't like it. She doesn't like me. She wants nothing to with me, in fact.

I came home from work in a bad mood on Friday. Despite my attempts to snap out of it, to move on, to put it all past me (it was Friday, after all.), it lingered. It lingered into dinner and bath time and bedtime. It lingered into Saturday... into breakfast and into Little Gym and into the end-of-the-year picnic for day care and into the visit with some friends to meet their new puppy.

Maybe some of the people, most of the people, couldn't tell. Hopefully the ones who really count couldn't tell. Since fatherhood I have made leaps and bounds in dealing with my bad moods. In masking them. (So I think.)  Most times I succeed. Sometimes I don't. I'm better at getting out of them quicker than before. At "faking it" when I can't get out of it, in the best interest of the child.

But on this day, at least the one person who does count - actually two (my wife - can't get anything by her) - knew all along. And she let me know it. She let me have it. She didn't let me down easily, either.

"Daddy, you're not my friend," she informed me early and often. Ouch. I was still trying to be the best dad I could be, even though I was not feeling my personal best. But dammit, my daughter demands my personal best. She deserves it. And when she doesn't get it, she makes me aware of it. "Daddy, you're a bad guy." Double ouch. I wasn't even giving her any indication that I was in a bad mood. I was smiling. I was tending. I was playing.

She wasn't buying. She can spot a mood from a mile away, and she picked up on this one from the start. It's amazing, actually. She just knows. She sees through it. And she wants no part of it.

Peanut and I share an uncanny bond
And if I don't hide it, she will be in a bad mood too. It's like we're connected. Like E.T. and Elliot. But not nearly as adorable or amusing.

What a wonderful treat for my wonderful wife. "Maybe our next child will have my personality," she sighs sarcastically at times when Peanut and I are at our most difficult. That's always comforting, when your soulmate pretty much calls your general demeanor a character flaw.

But I have no one to blame but myself. And what greater motivation to do better? To be better. It's in the best interest of the child.

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