Most who have met me would describe me as a calm, easy-going person. I've managed to control my temper with unruly high school students and lazy football players (the two or three officials I yelled at don't count) but since becoming a parent my temper has been tested in new and interesting ways. The results haven't always been pretty.
We all have a finite amount of patience, and toddlers start chipping away at it the moment they get up. I can be calm when Clara decides not to go potty and runs around my room and jumps on our bed naked while Kate empties the bathroom cabinet onto the floor or into the tub that she is now filling with water. I give a strong but controlled admonishment when Kate signals that she is all done with her cereal by dumping the remains on the floor. When they fight over a toy I silently move it to an unreachable shelf. But each time my patience meter lowers a little bit until I'm dangerously close to losing my temper.
Occasionally, one of them will unknowingly recharge my patience. When Clara and I sit and play with something quietly I gain a bit back. When Kate comes over and leans against me while sucking her thumb (essentially indicating I'm as important to her as her teddy bear) my patience meter climbs back up quickly.
But every couple weeks we'll get to the end of the day and I have no patience left, which is right about the time I'm trying to make dinner and one of three things will happen: 1) Kate searches my desk for a permanent marker and proceeds to "decorate" the desk, the chair, the computer, the walls, the dog... 2) Clara discovers that something she wants is too high for her to get, so she moves a chair over, ignores my commands for her to get down, and pulls down whatever it she wanted - along with the fruit bowl and various other breakable items. 3) Kate tries to find something that I don't want her to do and proceeds to do it while smiling at me. Allow me to illustrate:
Kate grabs the lamp and shakes it back and forth.
Me: Kate! Do not touch the lamp!
Kate smiles and touches the lamp.
Me: Kate! Do you need a time out?
Kate smiles and shakes the lamp.
Me: Kate! Let go of the lamp! One...two...
Kate knocks the lamp over and breaks the bulb, knocking over books and a cup of juice as well.
Which brings me to the point of this post. When I get really really angry and frustrated, I shout "dammit!" really really loud. I know I shouldn't, and I'm actually quite ashamed that I can't control myself better than that. At least I don't break things or cause harm to anyone. But after we put the girls to bed for the night and I get a look of their angelic faces in their cribs Megan has to listen to me get down on myself for losing my temper with them.
Last week, after we had finished our Thanksgiving feast and the girls were off playing quietly while the adults sat around the table, we overheard Clara playing with blocks and talking to herself in the office. Her blocks must have fallen over because she let out a calm little, "oh, dammit."
Of course it was inevitable that the little sponge would imitate me and of course I was mortified. She just had to pull that one out of her bag in front of her grandparents. It's a word that many people hear or say everyday. It's a word that isn't censored on television. South Park even did a funny bit on whether the word should be censored by the v-chip. But it is absolutely not the kind of word you want your three year old using. The worst part for me is after a couple of years of telling Megan to watch her mouth around the kids (don't be fooled - she can make a sailor blush) it's my word that they repeat. In parenting, no crime goes unpunished.
Clara has used the word a couple of times since then, but after a talk from Mommy she is now using the word "shoot" when something bad happens. The other day she dropped her fork while eating lunch and said "shoot." Then she looked at me and said, "see Daddy, I didn't say dammit."