Everyone has a friend for whom they’re constantly making excuses.
“He’s not normally like this” or “He’s cool once you get to know him” or “He’s got a weird sense of humor.”
After a while, it becomes apparent that that’s an awful lot of caveats, and maybe it’s time for your pal to start taking some of the blame for his own bad behavior.
Of late, that’s how I feel about my son.
At first, if we were out and he started acting like a monster, I’d get embarrassed and quickly qualify his bad behavior:
- “He didn’t get his nap today.”
- “He’s teething.”
- “He’s hungry.”
- “He doesn’t like the bright lights.”
- “We fed him after midnight. Big mistake.”
But nowadays, I find myself just outright blaming him.
One day, I was at a bar with some friends. My wife arrived a little later, our son by her side. Soon he started screaming every time someone so much as glanced in his direction. As a hardened veteran of these outbursts, and one who is quite sick of this phase of my son’s life, I stopped sugar-coating things. Instead of offering some half-assed explanation for my kid’s bad attitude, I just told everyone he was an asshole.
“Don’t mind him,” I said. “Screaming is his default mode these days. It’s nothing personal, he’s just being a dick.”
Bad behavior: The American Way
Now that he’s almost 3, I think it’s time he started taking some personal responsibility. Not everything he does is a result of something mommy or daddy has done wrong. He’s an individual, he makes his own choices. This is America! Right now, he’s choosing to be a massive pain in the ass, and I’m going to let him dig his own grave.
“Yeah, I’m his dad, but he’s his own man,” I’ll say. “He’s the one who threw the menu at you, so spit in his food, not mine.”
Of course, there’s a difference between no longer making excuses for my son’s bad behavior and letting that behavior go unchecked, and I’m certainly not advocating the latter. We still discipline, and we’ll still take a fair amount of responsibility for the person he eventually becomes, but the terrible twos are different. It’s something every parent goes through, regardless of how lenient or strict they are, and we just need to weather the storm. And while we do, we’re going to stop letting him off the hook when his behavior is going off the chain. In a bad way.
It’s his own reputation he’s ruining and, if he keeps this up, he’ll be persona non grata at every watering hole in town!
— A version of this first appeared on Dad and Buried.