Hands down, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.
Sometimes I feel that I put on this veneer of being a good father -- and it seems a very thin veneer -- and that the reality is that I'm as impatient and tempermental as my kids, and with less excuse. I hear the echoes of my own father in some of the things I say (or yell). I loved my dad, but growing up, especially when I was young, I feared him more than I respected him. Not because he was physically abusive, he was just intimidating, and I never got an explanation for the show of force. I felt I must have done something wrong, but I wasn't always sure what that was.
I have made a conscious effort not to be that way. If I fly off the handle -- and I do that more than I want to admit -- I try to calm down, and talk it out with my kids. I want my children to respect me -- I do not want them to fear me. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.
(Have I mentioned that I'm a work in progress?)
But with kids, God also sends down the greatest salve of all, the thing that smoothes out all the rough spots.
My children have had me rolling in the aisles, almost from the first day - and usually unintentionally. Their innocence and their perspective on the world is so refreshing -- and so DANG funny!
The Old Testament tells us that a soft answer turneth away wrath. So does unintentional humor. For example:
A few weeks back Emma, my six year old, who has been brushing her own teeth for some time now, suddenly decided that she didn't know how to do it. It was late -- way past her bedtime -- and this was a delaying tactic, plain and simple. And that just sends me over the edge. She didn't want that toothbrush, why couldn't we go get her a new one (at 9:30 pm)? She didn't know how to squeeze the toothpaste. She didn't like that toothpaste. There was too much on her toothbrush, Then there wasn't enough. You get the idea...
I was HOT, and I yelled. A lot. And my face was red, and I'm sure my eyes were blazing. I was intimidating as hell to my six year old daughter. Not my finest moment.
I was taking a couple of deep breaths, when I gruffly asked the dumbest question of all, "Why are you crying!?"
"Because," she sobbed -- and the guilt began to settle in, as the Incredible Hulk reverted to his original size -- "When you were yelling at me, you kept spitting in my eyeballs."
There was long awkward silence, and then we were both on the floor laughing until it hurt.
Thank God for humor.