A shortfall I experience in our culture is that we Dads and Step-Dads often are not willing to take the subtle heat for our families.
By subtle heat I mean the less conspicuous injustice and pain of everyday family life. Not the big “Manly Heat” like defending, providing, disciplining …. but rather the little, sneaky, barely noticable stuff. Newsflash; families often hurt and treat one another unfairly. Men, lets be the first to suck it up for the sake of those we are responsible to.
I write this on the heels of some awkward family turmoil where everyone was upset. I was upset with some lazy behaviour of my teen step-kids. They were upset at my moodiness over this laziness. My wife was upset with all of us.
In my mind, I had every right to be upset because they did not do the things they clearly agreed to do; household responsibilities and chores that they have demonstrated they know to do. Summer holidays from school have begun and routines have vanished. Teens sleep late and plop on couch for much of the day.
My wife and I work hard running a business from home with dozens of clients and several staff, we are seemingly left to also pick up after kids. I quietly snapped… tired of asking and reminding…. not wanting to creat confrontation as I often had in past… mistakenly opted instead to go quiet and moody for a day. Kids feel the tension and complain to Mom, who now feels caught in the middle, tries to calm everyone down and restore harmony because now she is upset at everyone else’s upset.
I could force my step kids to comply with household rules that they agreed to, but there is something else looming. Kids are fearful (mistakenly) that my moodiness is sign that their Mom and me are having trouble. Last man they remember Mom having trouble with was their Dad. He left and is not currently in their lives.
What does a ‘conservative, hard-working, son of an immigrant family’, now frustrated Step-Dad do now?
A) Buckle to the ‘bleeding-heart, cry-in-your-soup, Liberal BS’ and empathize with household (including lazy-ass teens’) “feelings”?
B) Raise my voice and kick their lazy asses off the couch and make them do their dishes and hang their clothes?
(Drumroll)…. Well men… I chose A. Ouch! Against everything in the pit of my frustrated being that yelled inside my head to deal with the tasks and work ethic first, I chose to suck it up for now, and deal with the only issue that was manageable at the time…. consider my wife and bring the emotional temperature in the house down, admit my wrong, show the kids I was big enough to initiate the solution and that I loved their Mom enough to put her ahead of my enforcement of values and work ethic. I took the heat. Subtle heat.
Now here’s the really crazy part. Chores and responsibilities have been done meticulously ever since and I never mentioned a word about them. We never did yet get around to discussing their laziness. Why did they seemingly self-correct? Probably because kids knew already what the should be doing and usually do. And they could see me respecting their Mom by considering her first in this situation.
The subtle heat I took was deferring my agenda and my right to an apology from kids for sluffing on established household rules. Time will present the right opportunity for us to have a reinforcing discussion about the rules and importance of them taking responsibility for themselves. Time will also present opportunity for them to see their wrongs and apologize, but I don’t require it. And on some level, they have learned something valuable from me setting these things aside.
Men, we don’t need to win every battle, and we definitely don’t need to win every battle first. Lets try to look past just what we feel we want right now. Lets have a little faith that we can handle momentary inconveniences. Lets show our wives, kids, and step-kids we are man enough to take this kind of subtle heat.