Child Rearin'

Published on February 17th, 2016 | by Richard Black

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I Yell Because I Care (and Sometimes I Care a Lot)

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It’s not yelling if you use a megaphone (NOTE TO SELF: Buy a megaphone)

My daughter came home a few days ago with a picture she’d drawn at school, an event that isn’t all that unusual. In fact one of the problems parents with young children face is what to do with all of the papery, pipe cleaning sticker festooned detritus our children bring home. Should it be framed or put in a plastic tub once it’s been appreciated? Do we throw it away when our child is asleep or use it for insulation in the attic rafters? It’s a bit of a conundrum and, quite frankly, one beyond the scope of this piece.

Kids bring home a lot of crap and all of it is adorable for at least two or three seconds. Some pieces however are more worthy of attention than others and this past Tuesday Darcy came home with something that clearly deserved serious consideration.

At first it appeared to be a confusing little piece. There were two figures, one larger who appeared to be vomiting on the other. On top of the page and in bold printed lettering were the words “I CARE LANGUAGE”. Below it was a caption “Draw a picture below of when you could use I CARE LANGUAGE”.

I wasn’t sure what “CARE LANGUAGE” was and I was even less sure why it was printed in all capital letters. The all cap bold faced type seemed to defeat the spirit of the message unless one was speaking to the mostly deaf or someone in a crowded room.

The phrase seemed slightly ominous like something a school counselor might use to ferret out deadbeat parents. I could see the meeting in my mind.

“Now Darcy please draw a picture of a time when someone could have used I CARE LANGUAGE instead of screaming PUT ON YOUR FUCKING SOCKS!!!” I could hear the school counselor say. And suddenly, just like that, the picture made sense.

The larger figure with spiky hair and a receding hairline was, quite obviously, me. The smaller figure with longer hair and a frown was my daughter. The lines coming out of my mouth were not, in fact, vomit, but that’s about as much good news that was to be had.

“Honey,” I motioned Darcy over to discuss the picture, “what’s this all about?” I asked as innocuously as possible.

“It’s about a time that you yelled at me and made me sad,” Darcy responded, “Mr. C. asked me to draw it.”

Mr. C is the school’s counselor and I spent the next few minutes creating a script in the event he came calling. The fact is that, from time to time, I do raise my voice around the house. I wasn’t aware that it was frequent enough to severely upset my daughter nor, more importantly, that it required intervention on the part of the school.

UF_CaringLanguage_021016Fortunately, after a few more questions, I discovered that each of Darcy’s classmates were asked to take part in the same activity which I took to be good news. Either this was one of the usual sorts of activities Mr. C. performs with all kindergartners or Darcy’s class is full of unhinged screaming parents and Child Services is going to be quite busy over the next few months.

I come by it honestly, yelling that is. My old man had a similar approach to child rearing and at the time I remember, quite clearly, wondering why he yelled so often. It’s not that he didn’t have an occasion to raise his voice. During my junior year in high school I managed to get myself and my older brother expelled for writing an underground newspaper which was bad enough. The fact that the timing of our expulsion occurred two weeks after the old man announced he was running for mayor provided some added excitement to a situation already loaded with drama.

Even as a younger child I wondered why my father yelled so much. I never thought of myself as being particularly inattentive as a boy but from the stories my parent’s tell I’m surprised I wasn’t tested for some sort of neurological condition or substance abuse.

“You used to walk into rooms, turn on the light and stand there for two minutes without doing anything and then walk back out of the room,” my stepmother is fond of reminding me.

“When you were 14 you developed an oral fetish and would put things like erasers and paperclips in your mouth and just plop them down whenever you were done,” is another favorite that’s brought up from time to time.

Rumor has it that I once put a frozen burrito in a microwave for three hundred minutes. I don’t remember the event which isn’t to say that it didn’t happen. In all likelihood it probably did. The fact that no one else noticed that a burrito was turning into charcoal briquette and setting off smoke alarms three blocks away leads me to believe that I was not the only person in the house with an attention deficit disorder.

Now that I’m a father my old man’s propensity for yelling and those mumbled curses under his breath make a lot more sense. He wasn’t hard of hearing or harboring some early form of dementia. He was just a dad.

I like to think that I yell less than my father who, if truth be told, rarely yelled and simply raised his voice. One would imagine that having raised six children he would have raised his voice quite often and he did just not as much as one might think. Then again this was back in the 1980s and pretty much everyone yelled all the time, it was the default form of communication, so it’s hard to tell just how much the old man raised his voice.

Times however have changed

I could be better. I’ve heard that there are tools or games one can utilize to entice a child into a pair of socks or to brush a set of teeth and I’m sure they work just fine. Unfortunately these tools are predicated on two assumptions. The first is that I have the forethought to think of them five minutes before I’m trying to get Darcy into a car. The second assumption is that I have the forethought to even research what these techniques might be.

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When you’re a parent, at times, this is what love looks like.

I could be better. I could certainly yell at my daughter less. There are times however when yelling is entirely appropriate and this is because small children have the attention span and survival instincts of horny lemmings. At times there is no substitute for a raised voice. Nothing else demands immediate attention or conveys a level of horror and concern quite like a good yell or even a high pitched and blood curdling scream.

That’s really why I do it.  I yell at Darcy because I care. It’s because I care about her whether it involves putting on a pair of pants when it’s twenty below zero outside or avoiding some idiot tearing through a grade school parking lot in a pimped out Ford F150. I love my daughter and, quite frankly, it’s the people who don’t yell at their children who concern me because they’re obviously not emotionally invested in their children’s well being.

Still I could be doing better. That’s really a mantra all parents should follow. Anyone who says differently is clearly doing something very wrong or trying to sell us something. Now you’ll have to excuse me. It’s ten o’clock at night but I have to get my daughter up so that she’s fed and dressed and ready for school tomorrow morning.

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