Sometimes fatherhood feels like pulling your own teeth with pliers

At Malcolm’s karate class last week I saw a dad packing up his 5-year old son’s karate gear while asking his 3-year old daughter to wear her jacket and come to him. Good thing, his other child, an infant, quietly waited in the car seat.

He almost lost his cool toward his daughter. He raised his voice–almost a yell. Perhaps being in public helped him rein in his temper.

I’ve been in that position, too.

Being a father sometimes feel like pulling your own teeth with pliers.

You gotta repeat instructions at least 10 times!

“Brush your teeth! Make your bed! You better hurry up or you’ll be late for school!”

Not proud of it, but I’ve lost my cool hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the morning before dropping Malcolm off to school; at the dinner table when he just won’t stay in his seat; even inside the car on the way to church!


It’s so easy for things to escalate into a shouting match. I sometimes feel like Riley’s dad in Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out,” needing to out my foot down while “Anger” takes the driver’s seat of my emotions.

And after a screaming match, I’d wonder if I’ve ruined his childhood forever and given him enough things to talk about his therapist twenty years later.

Keep Calm…

Sometime back, I had a conversation with Mike, a friend and mentor, about kids and anger. He is one of the calmest people I know. I asked him how he keeps his cool with his kids who are acting up. He said he is calm most of the time but that his kids know how to push his buttons.

Maybe that is one of the things that kids do best: test their parents and push the buttons that drive them crazy! Even our little one, Caspian, who at one, is starting to test us–like remove the Velcro of his diaper when we’ve told him not to donut.

“Do you know that you sometimes drive us crazy?” I asked Malcolm once.

“I know!” he replied.

I didn’t know if he was proud of it or just aware of his antics’ effect on me and Cha.

The other evening while doing a day’s worth of dishes, I thought about the busyness of our lives as Filipino parents in the USA. Far from family who could help, and we could not hire househelp the way we did back in the Philippines.

Fatherhood is busy, crazy, and half the time, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing or if I’m doing a good job.

But when Malcolm sits on my lap while I’m lounging at the rocking chair, and proceeds to tell me about his day; when Caspian gives me hugs, and we run around in the park, all the difficulties fade into the background. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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