Monday, March 3, 2014

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My Kids and I are Frenemies (part II)

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We drove the rest of the way to Best Buy in silence. We stepped from the car, and once we did, I asked Norah if she wanted to ride on my shoulders. She loves to ride on my shoulders. In fact, sometimes when I sit on the sofa she climbs up on my shoulders when I really don’t want her to, then she laughs with satisfaction. I thought that this offer might change her mood. But instead she folded her arms, stomped her foot, and said, “Don’t talk to me, Daddy!”
I told her not to talk to me like that, and that she needed to treat me with respect. These were the same lame lines my parents used on me when I was four-years-old. They didn’t work on me, and they definitely didn't work with Norah, but for some reason I always find myself regurgitating the same crap my parents said, as if, somehow, I am going to make it new and fresh, and effective. She reached up and took Mel’s hand. Then she said, “I only want Mommy.”

So I tried to mend things with Tristan. He was obsessed with a new video game called Skylanders Swap-Force. More or less, it was a marketing ploy that brought toy action figures to life in the video game by placing the toys on a “portal of power.” There were hundreds of these damn figures, and Tristan felt he needed all of them.
“How about we go look at the new Skylanders figures?” I said.
“I will only look at Skylanders with Mom,” he said.
What the hell? I thought. This happens all the time. Both kids are always quick to forgive Mom, and it pisses me off. For a long time I assumed that this happened because Mel was with them all day. And I assumed that during my summer as a stay at home dad that this would all change. I assumed that it had something to do with how much time was spent with the kids. But me being their primary care giver didn’t change a thing. They still took the same amount of time to forgive me after I disciplined them when I was a stay-at-home dad, as when I was not.
 It makes me wonder if this is a natural thing. That kids are more prone to forgive their mothers than their fathers. Or perhaps it was just my kids. And I will admit, it is difficult to stay angry with Mel. She is petite, and has a sweet smile and soft disposition. It’s hard not to forgive her.
When I think about how the kids beg for her after being chastised, I realize that I do the same thing. Mel will get mad at me for this or that and then lock herself away in the bedroom to cool off. For the next hour or so all I want from her is forgiveness, and it takes a lot of effort to keep from banging on the door and asking for it. 

No matter what Mel does, she is their friend and mother. No matter what she does, I am her friend and husband. We all crave her forgiveness. And we all want her praise. I wish I had that same power.
We went into the store. The main reason we’d gone to Best Buy was so Mel could have her netbook looked at by the Geek Squad. It was a few weeks before Christmas, so the store was packed. There was a line to meet with a “Geek Squad Agent,” a title that I feel is inflammatory. Most of the agents were young enough to still be on their parents’ insurance. Mel was already irritated from the drive. She was also pregnant, which meant she was more or less a pile of kindling waiting for a spark. So I offered to take the kids to look at video games while she waited in line.
“You are amazing,” Mel said.
But neither kid would have it. They were still angry with me. Norah clung to Mel’s leg as though I were a stranger, and Tristan kept asking if Mel could take him to look at games instead of me. I didn’t really know what was going on with her computer, so it was best for Mel to meet with the Geek Squad Agent. So I just waited in line with her, trying to help with the kids, as they clung to their mother.
Mel was getting frustrated, and I was tired of waiting in line, so eventually I picked up Tristan and carried him to the games. The whole way he kept trying to wiggle free, but once we got to the game section, he started talking about Skylanders and how cool they were, and I assumed we were good.
After about 30 minutes, Mel sent me a text saying that they were done. Once I met back up with them, Norah greeted me with a big hug. I was really happy that she was not angry with me anymore. However, these are the moments that frustrate me the most. This is when I started to realize that I really don’t understand my kids. One moment they hate me, and the next they love me. They are these complicated little creatures that are full of emotions, wants, and confusion, and every day I have feel like I have to choose between being a father and a friend. In so many ways I am their frenemy. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley