My son’s room is a perpetual mess. Hey, he’s 7, I don’t blame him. My office is a mess, too. And I’m 7.29 times older than he is!
But last week, when I could no longer find the covers on his bed because of the layers of stuff strewn across it, I felt enough was enough. (My office is almost at that point, but not quite.) I resolved that we had to clean it up.
So we spent his pre-bedtime activities (usually spent reading) by clearing his bed, putting toys away, throwing away broken toys, shoving Legos into boxes. We are in frenzied activity mode .. well, I was. I was pulling everything off of the bed, trying to put it in piles, threatening to throw stuff away. My son, however, seemed perfectly content to move one book at a time and then lovingly place each book with tender care into its proper place.
During this time, I found a bunch of what I thought were failed attempts at paper airplanes. Crumpled up and half folded pieces of white paper, very few with writing on them, that have been lying on the bed for weeks. I repeatedly ask, “Are these trash?” To which my son doesn’t respond. “I assume that means yes,” I said, mostly for my own benefit, then I threw them in the trash.
Amazingly, we manage to do everything we need to do, clearing off the bed and making it mostly presentable about five minutes before bedtime. About three hours later, as I am going to bed, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and a small self-loathing for not having had him do five minutes every day before he goes to bed.
The next morning, my son gets up in plenty of time for school and starts getting dressed. Suddenly I hear a wailing.
He comes into the kitchen, actual tears in his eyes and a couple of crumpled pieces of paper in his hand, saying, “You threw away my airplanes. You threw away Frogger!”
I tried to explain, but he would not listen. He’s wailing and crying, and saying, “I need Mom. You are the worst dad ever!” I gather him in my arms to comfort him and he starts kicking me. I told him that we could rebuild them. He said, “I’ll NEVER BE ABLE TO RECREATE THEM! WAAAHHHH!”
Apparently within all those crumpled pieces of paper were some experimental airplanes that he had worked on weeks before, and my tossing them away clearly was a capital offense.
I managed to calm him down, and get him to school, just barely. By the end of the day, there was still some residual anger, and by the next day he was back to his normal loving self.
I completely understand his anger, but at the same time I see it as completely irrational. I told him I didn’t mind him getting crazy upset about something important. But these are not important. (If I had been the worst father in the world, I probably would have destroyed the rest of his airplanes. But I resisted that urge. I am not a monster.)
I’m upset that he kicked me, which should never be the right response to anything, irrational or not.
But I forgive him. As I said up in the first paragraph, he’s 7. I don’t blame him.
A version of this “worst dad ever” tale first appeared on Dadapalooza.