Thursday, May 11, 2006
The inevitable has arrived
Well, it was just a matter of time. My dad doesn't cope well with stress, and often when he's stressed he picks a different target to take things out on. Very often, the nearest child(ren) - because they don't fight back well, I think. It made for some difficult times for me, growing up, and now as an adult the thing I can most clearly thank my father for is the ability to distance myself from displaced anger, just sort of let the person vent and not take it personally. And not bite back.

So, he's been living here for seven or eight months now, and the whole time he's been unhappy with his job. He's a truck driver, and just in case anyone ever saw that as a sort of romantic, fun, adventurous job.... it's not. He's at the bottom of a lot of food chains and shtuff rolls downhill, and all that. So, it's been wearing on him.

To give credit where it's due, he's a lot less biting and impulsive than I remember him being 20 years ago. But still. It's been building. The past few weeks, I've watched him be more and more easily irritated by my kids - what I consider to be the normal unavoidable whining of a household with a 21-month-old and a 6-year-old makes him mutter and glare and refer to "ruined meals" and "whined all day." (Ever have that happen to you? Where you think a day went a certain way - "Hey, that was a pretty good day" - and then someone else views it totally differently, and it's sort of a reality-shock? I hate that.) So I've been waiting.

And today came the tantrum. I took Jacob to the Y this morning, he was less than thrilled about being left with the child watch place but that's fair because I was less than thrilled about going to work out. On my way home, I somehow managed to pick up a killer migraine - the hold-my-head-on-and-please-don't-puke kind - and so I became very much focused on the moment: get Emily from school, drive home on the road not on the sidewalk, get into the house, bribe the children with cookies and TV, and collapse on the couch until my meds kick in. Yippee.

So, in betwen the get into the house step and the cookies and TV step, both kids burst into whining. Seems that NOW was not soon enough as far as cookies and TV were concerned. My father was in the living room at this point, and within 30 seconds of the whining starting, he stormed out of the room. Didn't capture much of my attention in the moment, because of said whining, and because 30 seconds later when the whining faded into the sounds of cookie-eating and The Price is Right, I moved on to the collapse on the couch phase. I vaguely noticed that he'd had his laptop in the living room with him and that he took that when he left.

Next contact is about an hour (a whine-free, kids building tents and Willard overbidding on the Showcase Showdown hour) later, when my dad came storming back out of the room to inform me that his iPod appears to be trashed because my kids were whining. I wouldn't have thought that the electronics were that sensitive to room noise, but there you go. It can't *possibly* be due to the fact that my father had an impulsive tantrum and stormed out of the room before shutting things down, that he overreacted to children being annoying - that is to say, normal - children, or that technology is just weird sometimes. No. It is all because my kids were whining.


I'm now congratulating myself for not pointing out the idea that perhaps he is responsible for his own reactions and maybe just maybe he overreacted to this. I may eventually point it out, especially if he decides to hold a grudge - but to be fair, my dad is not a grudge-holding guy. He tends to have these impulsive bouts of anger and then burns through 'em. In any case, he left to head back to work for the week, so we won't see him until Tuesday.

Argh. Nothing like feeling caught in the middle of feuding family members... particularly when it's my father and my kids.