Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 examples of why I’m the empty threat master





As a parent of three, I make a lot of crazy threats to get my kids to do things. Most of them are completely implausible and empty and it’s just a matter of time before my young children find out. Here are a few examples.

Threat: If you don’t go to bed now… there will be… serious consequences.

Reality: I’ve got nothing. I have used up all my threats and now I am using big empty words as a fear tactic.

Threat: If you don’t come right now I’m leaving you. I hope they feed you.

Reality: This isn’t the 80s. Leaving my child at Target would get me arrested and have me trending on Facebook.

Threat: Get your shoes on now or we are not going to the store.

Reality: If we don’t go to the store, I will not have any more diet soda. I need to keep from snapping, parking my minivan, and wandering into the woods.

Threat: Pack you’re your lunch now or you will be eating school lunch.

Reality: School lunch gives you diarrhea. That always ends well.

Threat: If you don’t get in the tub right now I’m sending you to bed.

Reality: Now I’ve created the stinky kid.

Threat: Get cleaning the living room or you will lose screens for the rest of the week.

Reality: Now I’ve taken away the one thing that keeps the kids distracted long enough for me to wash the dishes. Good call dipshit.

Threat: Pick up your toys or I’m throwing them all away!

Reality: Now I get to buy new toys.

Threat: Do your homework or I’m canceling your birthday party.

Reality: The cake, invitations, and presents have been paid for. I might as well blow a wad of cash out my ass.

Threat: If you don’t stop that then you will not be going to Jason’s birthday party.

Reality: There is no way I’m giving up two hours of free babysitting.

Threat: Better knock it off or I’m going to tell Ms. Kay.

Reality: That sounds like a great way to make us both look like dumb-asses.

Threat: Stop screaming or I’m going to stop the van and leave you on the side of the road.

Reality: That’s illegal.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My son’s crappy shoes and why they made me feel like a bad father




Image by Freedom II Andres

They were a pair of Airwalk skate shoes he picked out at the start of his second grade school year. They were black, with a little orange and a little blue. Nothing special. On sale. Tristan treated them like garbage. He kicked them off when he got home, dragged them across the floor as he crawled around, jumped in puddles, filled them with dirt, and he kicked everything from his lunch box to brick walls. Six months into having them the sole was drifting from the shoe, giving his right foot a mouth that flapped as he ran across the yard. Sometimes he sat on the front step and tugged at the flap, pretending it was an old friend, the two chatting about farts and boogers. One shoelace was unraveling, and they smelled like feet and dog crap.

“Tristan,” I said. “You’ve got to get rid of these. They make you look like a hobo.”

I’d been referring to them as his “hobo shoes” for weeks, thinking that I might be able to shame him into not wearing them. That was until he looked up at me with blue eyes, his crappy beat up shoes on his feet, shirt a little to big and askew, shorts too tight, and said, “What’s a hobo?”

I thought for a moment about what I’d just said and wondered what I was teaching him. I didn’t want him to feel superior to others, I just wanted him to get rid of his ugly ass shoes. I’d bought him new shoes a good two months earlier. Shoes he’d picked out. But he refused to wear them, choosing his beat up shoes, and I couldn’t tell if it was because of comfort, or pride, or if it was because he wanted to humiliate me. Every time we stepped outside, everywhere he went in those shoes, I felt like people were looking at him and thinking, “His parents just don’t care.” But I did care. I cared enough to wrestle him into the tub each night and hassle him into changing his underwear and socks, tell him to stop eating his boogers and to wipe his butt as though he cared, and all the other battles that happened because little boys are gross. But most of that wasn’t easily visible as we walked through the mall like these shoes were, and I hated it.

Tristan was waiting for me to tell him what a hobo was. “It’s a person that wears really crappy shoes. I don’t want you to be that person.”

He thought about what I wanted. He thought about my definition. The he shrugged and said, “I could be a hobo.”

Then he went outside to play and I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

I followed him out. I told him how I found his shoes embarrassing. “You make me look like I don’t care about you. Is that what you want? To make your dad look bad? Do you want people to think I don’t care about you?”

Tristan gave me a confused face, brows a little furrowed, like I was taking this whole shoe thing way too seriously. “I know that you care,” he said.

“But what about other people?” I said.

“I don’t really like other people.”

We went back and forth for a while. I tried to help him see how badly I wanted people to see that I was a good father that cared for my children. I listed things like clean clothing and smiling faces, and as I spoke, I seemed to be describing some perfect Facebook family. Those people that only post their kids in new clothing, doing cute clean things, and always have a status about A+ report cards and other showboating shit that is intended to make them look good without letting people know how gritty real life with kids can be. When I think back on this moment, I realize that I was being really superficial and that most of this argument was about me and not him. Before kids, I never really cared what other people thought, but now I seem to worry about it a lot. Parents are some of the most judgmental people I’ve ever met, and somehow, during my 8 years as a father, I’d fallen into that.

That night, after Tristan went to bed, I took his crappy shoes out to the dumpster. I thought I was being smart, so I told my wife, Mel, about it. We were in the kitchen. I was working on the dishes; she was at the table studying for a final exam. Both of us were in our pajamas.

“I put Tristan’s crappy shoes in the dumpster,” I smiled and winked and assumed that she’d be all about it. Be happy that I’d solved the problem.

Mel looked up from her laptop and said,” Why did you do that?”

“Because they are embarrassing. I’m tired of him making us look like we don’t care about him.”

“Why are you so worried about what other people think,” she said. “He really loves those shoes. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. He’s probably going to flip out once he discovers what you did, and I’m going to have to deal with that.”

“He’ll get over it,” I said.

We were starting to get heated over these shoes, which was something I never expected. I assumed that she’d be happy, but here I was being the criminal.

“I just don’t think that it matters,” she said. “I don’t like the shoes either, but he does. He’s becoming independent, and I don’t want to squash that. And I don’t want him to find us too controlling or he isn’t going to respect us.”

And as we spoke, I thought about when I was in high school. I had long hair. My grandmother, a woman who raised a family during the 60s, raised me. She hated my hair and often called me a hippie dippy dumbass. One night I woke up to her leaning over me with a pair of scissors. When I asked her what she was doing she said, “I just hate your hair so much. It makes you look like a damn hippie. It’s embarrassing.”

What she said made me even more determined to have long hair. And as a father, her tone reminded me a lot of how I was speaking to Tristan about his shoes.

“We need a compromise,” Mel said.

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right.”

I went out to the dumpster and fetched the shoes. Mel put them on a top shelf in the garage, and the next day, Mel told Tristan about me throwing them away and how she saved them. Then she told him that he could only wear the shoes around the house.

He agreed.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  
Photo by Lucinda Higley 



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I hate yelling at my kids, but I do it all the time



Image by Greg Westfall

My 7-year-old was sitting at the dinner table, messing around with a pencil sharpener instead of doing his homework, while my 5-year-old was dancing in the living room, waving some streamer she’d found rather than cleaning the mess of plates and cups she’d made on the table. I was on the sofa with stomach pain. My wife, Mel, was at a church. She had the baby.

It was just after 7 p.m.. I’d been having horrible stomach pain for several weeks at this point, and my doctor suspected it was an ulcer. It was probably a result of stress from raising a family, and the fact that I drink 6 or 7 cans of diet soda a day (I have a problem).

When Mel left, I was feeling fine, but suddenly things had changed, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. I went from sitting to lying on the sofa, one hand over my stomach, and began directing my kids. So much of parenting is dictating, monitoring, and repetition. Tristan was supposed to be in bed in one hour, and yet, despite repeatedly being told to get his homework finished, he was still dragging his feet, making strange grunty fart noises with his mouth.

And Norah, she was still dancing and singing, and having a jolly time in the living room, despite the fact that I’d told her over a dozen times to clean up her mess. Both the homework and cleaning the table probably would’ve taken each kid less than ten minutes, but they’d dragged it out.

“Listen kiddos,” I said. “Daddy’s not feeling very good. Can you please just get your stuff done? I’m in a lot of pain right now.”

I don’t fully know why I always assume that if I tell my children that I’m not feeling well that they will be compassionate. Because it never works. Both looked at me with greedy eyes. Like they knew that I was down, and felt comfortable taking my wallet.

I hadn’t started yelling yet, but now that I was in pain, and the kids weren’t listening, I didn’t have the patience to keep calm. It takes a surprising amount of concentration, a real focus on feelings and emotions, to keep from yelling at my kids. I don’t fully understand why this is. I love the hell out of them. I think they are cute. In so many ways they are my world, and yet they frustrate me most of the time. It’s such a strange relationship of love and irritation that makes me wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I feel like I should unconditionally love them, but what does that really look like? Does that mean I can’t get frustrated? Does it mean that I have to always, 100% of the time, put up with their crap?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that as I lay curled on the sofa, felling intense pain in my stomach, I started yelling. I started issuing ultimatums that were over the top.
“Tristan, if you don’t get started on your homework by the time I count to three I’m taking your Nintendo DS and breaking it in half.” And I told Norah, “If you don’t clean that table I’m going to take all of your baby dolls and light them on fire.”

Both looked at me with big eyes, as if they knew, suddenly, that I was serious. That I finally meant business. I really hate yelling at my kids, but after an hour of repeating, and nagging, and persuading, and trying, and hoping, and wanting, eventually, I get rubbed raw. I get frustrated, and I see no other resolve but to start yelling and pointing, and stomping my feet, and snapping my fingers, and sounding just like my mother did when I was child. The pain in my gut made all of these emotions worse.

But you know what I what I hate the most about yelling? It’s how it gets results. I know that if I get flaming pissed my kids will get busy. I think that is a huge part of why I all ways fall back on yelling. I keep trying to convince myself that if I just act nice, use positive reinforcement, gentle nagging, expectations, anything but yelling, my kids will come around.

But rarely does it work. The kids drag their feet, and push it to the line, until I feel like I have no other resolve.

And once it was all done, and I was red-faced, and emotional, and the homework was finished, and the table was clean, and the kids looked at me with big watery eyes, I felt like an asshole. I always do. Sure, it takes a good hour or so to calm down, and in the moment I always feel a little justified. I feel like they pushed me to it, and I had no other recourse. But once that all fades away, I always feel like complete and total garbage.

Both Tristan and Norah were in bed by the time I started feeling bad about yelling. My stomach still hurt, but not nearly as much as my guilt.

I went into Norah’s room first. She was in pajamas with little hearts, wrapped up in a Frozen bedspread. I sat down on the lip of her bed and said, “I’m sorry for yelling.  I don’t know why it always comes down to that, but I’m sorry.” Norah smiled at me, like she usually does, then she put out her arms for a hug.

Then I went into Tristan’s room. He was lying in bed, wrapped up in a quilt. All I could see was his little round buzzed head. I told him that I was sorry, but he didn’t respond. I felt like I should’ve had some heart warming, Atticus Finch, fatherly thing to say, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like.

“Listen,” I said. “I hate yelling at you. I hate it a lot. But sometimes, I’m not sure what else to do to get you to listen. I know you hate homework, but I know how important it is, and there is no way I’m going to let you not understand that.”

He didn’t say anything. He just nodded. I kissed his head, and left. In the past year or so, he’s started to be a lot slower to forgive, and it makes me wonder if all this yelling will make him hate me, like I hated my parents as a child.

Parenting is hard.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  
Photo by Lucinda Higley 



Monday, March 23, 2015

18 Things YOUR husband never should’ve done when you were pregnant



Image by Jacob Botter

I published a list of things I never should’ve said to my wife while pregnant on Scary Mommy. It went viral, and ended up with some hilarious comments. I sorted through them and found some of the best.

1.     My husband (while I was pregnant with my first child) said, “Why are you so freaked out about giving birth, cows do it all the time”. Seriously…cows.

2.     Haha! I cried like a baby because I dropped my M&M Blizzard. I mean sat down in the driveway and balled my eyes out! He thought I was crazy. I was devastated damn it!!!

3.     “Ew, look at your feet!”

4.     At least he didn’t say “your vomiting is psychosomatic, you’re only throwing up because you just think that’s what pregnant women are supposed to do” and “you’re never in the mood anymore, this isn’t what I signed up for”. Yes, my husband said those exact things to me. More than once.

5.     When I was pregnant with my first, my husband heard me once complaining that I felt as big as a planet. He deemed it appropriate to say, “No, you’re more like a house. You have a tenant.”

6.     My husband looked at my stomach while I was getting dressed to leave the hospital after having our first child and asked, “Is that your stomach?”…news flash…stomach doesn’t just disappear overnight after the baby comes out.
He did learn and by the second child he did not say anything…

7.     Mine said “its just so big & weird” like a week before I gave birth and then asked why it hadn’t gone away when I was leaving the hospital. Asshole.

8.     Shortly after I gave birth I was walking to the NICU to visit my almost 6 lb. 34 week baby, the nurse said it was hard to believe I just had a baby…meaning I was getting around so well. Baby’s father looked down at my belly and said, “It is hard to believe.” Asshole.

9.     I cried in the mall getting a Cinnabun during my 3rd trimester. My husband said he didn’t want one, but I figured I’d get them for the next morning and bought him one anyway. He looked at me and said, “You got me one? I told you I didn’t want one.” I bawled my eyes out right there in middle if the mall and said through sniffles and tears, “I just find it hard to believe someone wouldn’t want a Cinnabun.” So my advice is to just eat the damn Cinnabun.

10. Mine wouldn’t make me a sandwich at midnight when I was 2 weeks away because he was sleeping. My bawling freaked him out so bad he made it for me :) ham sammiches are serious bidness!!

11. My husband, when I was pregnant with our first child said to me, “GOD! You are so overly emotional!” I threw a coffee cup at him.

12. Third trimester I heard, “I’m so tired.” If looks could kill.

13. During labor, my hubby said something to the effect of “just go with it, this is natural, women have babies all the time” and I said “c’mere. I feel like grabbing and twisting your nuts just so you have a small inkling on how much this hurts!” and then I made my sister in law escort him from the room before I made good on my threat.

14. “I think it hurt more when I injured my knee.”

15. Pregnant with twins I was talking a bath and needed help getting up so I wouldn’t slip, so I asked for help getting out, his response, “want me to get the Crisco.” I knew he was joking, but really?!

16. Me: why would they make maternity shorts so short
Husband: they’re not short babe, they just look short because they’re so wide…

17. When I was pregnant I could not get enough of the cheap .99 burritos. But when I ate them, which was often, I needed three. Always three. I came home one day and my husband had dared to eat one. First I cried because what the hell am I going to do with just two burritos?! And then I cried because I knew I would still be hungry. And then I cried because it meant he didn’t love me. Ahhhh good times

18. One day I missed an appointment I think in the beginning of my third trimester, so of course I started crying and freaking out because I’d have to reschedule and my husband said to me, “You’ll be fine. Cave women didn’t have to go to the doctor all the time and they had babies.”

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  


Friday, March 20, 2015

To my son on his 8th birthday





Tristan:

When you were born, I was really scared. I was young, 24-years-old (I know that sounds old to you right now, but when you turn 24 you will know how young it is). I was still in college and waiting tables at The Olive Garden. I didn’t know if I could support you. But most importantly, I didn’t know if I could be a dad. I’d never been one before, and my father wasn’t around much, so I felt like I’d never seen a good example.

The day you were born was a mix of emotions. I was excited to meet you, to see what you would look like, but mostly, I was scared. I was scared that something might go wrong with the birth, and I’d lose you, or your mother. I hadn’t even met you yet and I was already afraid of losing you, and although that feeling was new at the time, I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a life long emotion. Even after 8 years, I am always a little nervous that I might lose you physically, or emotionally. You mean a lot to me. More than I ever expected.

I was the first to hold you. This is not to say that the doctor didn’t handle you, and the nurse didn’t swaddle you, but I was the first to really hold you. To snuggle you, and look in your face, and realize that we had the same nose, same hands, same browline, and I wondered if we’d share the same frustrations. I wondered if we’d have similar personalities and frustrations and passions, and in that moment, when I saw how much of me was in you, I felt warm. I felt confident and I didn’t know why, but over the years I have begun to understand that it was the innate understanding between a father and a son. It’s the knowledge that even though you will grow up at a different time and in a different place, we still share similar blood, and with my understanding of myself, I have a good head start on understanding you.

The funny thing is, though, even with all that, and after 8 years as a father, I’m still scared that I’m doing it wrong. I’m always afraid that I’m going to make the wrong decision, push you too hard, or say some stupid thing that pushes you away. I fear that you will one day hate me just like I hated my father. I know that it’s different. I know that I’m around, as opposed to my father, who was in and out. But that doesn’t make the fear any less real. I want you to love me as much as I love you, and I’m not sure what that looks like. Perhaps you never will. I don’t know. I’ve never experienced it. But what I do know is that every day with you I get back a little bit of what I lost with my own father. Every time we play basketball in the yard, or do work in the garden, or go swimming, or read stories, or hang out on the sofa and watch silly movies from the 80s, I get with you what I always wanted from my father. And when I read what I just wrote, it sounds selfish. But at the same time, it’s ironic. I was so scared of having a child because I never had a father. I was afraid I’d be lost. But what ended up happening was me regaining something I’d always longed for: a father-son relationship.

Tristan, on your 8th birthday, I want you to know that you are one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and every day I’m shocked that God entrusted me with someone so remarkable. I am surprised by your curiosity, humor, and your ability to assess a situation and make a decision. You make friends, you make people laugh, you learn easier and faster than I ever did at your age. You think and process information in amazing and surprising ways, and the really cool thing is, I can see it happen. I can see it behind your blue eyes as they move side-to-side, deep in thought. Tristan, you are a deep thinker, and I love that about you. You ask good questions and you listen (most of the time).

Whether it is 8, or 18, or 28, I will always love you. You will always be my son. You are a bigger gift to me than I think you will ever know. Last year, when we were walking to the Strawberry Festival, I told you three things that I wanted from you. I waned you to be a good husband and father who loves his family and takes care of his responsibilities. And you said, “Yup! Just like you, dad.” It was in that moment that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was doing it right.

Always remember what I said. I want you to be successful. I want you to be bright and educated. But if you grow up and love your family and take care of your responsibilities, you will be a success to me. Anything else is just frosting. I don’t know if me telling you what I want means anything, but when I was a boy, I didn’t know what my father wanted of me. In many ways I assumed he just wanted me to go away.

Tristan, I never want you to go away. I want to be a part of your life forever.

I love you.

Happy 8th birthday.

Dad


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.