|Raising your first child, there are many 'firsts' you look forward to. Their first awareness of you, their first real smile, their first gurgling noises, first attempts at words, first time they turn over, crawl, stand, walk, and others I can only imagine at this early stage.
Then there are firsts you don't look forward to.
For the first time since I became a dad I had to use discipline.
Baby Wright is 10 months old and though I have no knowledge of other kids at this age, people say he is a good boy. Of course, I can't imagine a child not being good this young. I would think acting out would not come until later, either as they test their freedom or as a parent, you start screwing up. We've not reached either point, (I don't think).
However, while playing today, Baby smacked me in the face - repeatedly. I laughed it off at first because a) he had this big goofy grin on his face as he clumsily struck me and b) I knew he was probably playing some form of the "got your nose" or the "bonk your nose" game he plays with my mother-in-law. (mental note: tell Nana no more bonking faces games).
I'm sure he thinks he is playing, having fun and interacting with me. After he hit me, he was watching me with a smile on his face and wide, trusting eyes. Part of me wondered if he was in fact testing me, or simply watching my reaction because so much of what we do is a cause and effect relationship, where he will do something and I will make a goofy face or noise or somehow react to what he does. His intent was probably innocent, but I couldn't help but wonder if this is the point where he begins to test boundaries?
My wife said, "tell him 'no'"
So, I said, "no" in a deeper than normal dad voice, but not in any way as terrifying as I can be, say, when yelling at a certain giant runaway dog to stop running as I chase him through my neighborhood.
He did it again. I repeated "No" and he saw I was serious.
Instantly, my son's face changed.
His happy, playful countenance was replaced with a look of confusion. His eyes wide, looking unbelievably at me, and starting to water. Then his lower lip trembled, he turned downward as if ashamed, and began to cry. I tried to hug him but he wanted mommy.
It broke my heart.
Especially since I know he didn't mean to "hit" me.
So, this is what it feels like to be the "bad guy" the "wait 'til your father gets home" guy. I must say, it sucks. At the same time, I know it had to be done, because we don't want him to hit others (even if his intent is to play) so we had to say "no".
My wife saw how shaken up I was and said I'm going to be a pushover. She has far more experience dealing with kids, and I'm sure she will know all the right things to do. Me, on the other hand, who knows? I'd like to think I know the right things to do. I am pretty strict in my mindset of what can and can't be done. But I also fancy myself as pretty open minded and laid back, someone who would be a cool dad. However, any number of cool dads have jerky kids who grow up to disrespect not only cool dad but any authority and life in general.
God, to think that everything I do now, good or bad, could affect him his whole life -- that's a lot to live up to.
When people find out I have a baby or run into us while we're out, if they are parents, nearly every one of them says the same thing -- they grow up so fast and they break your heart.
I never really thought much about it. I figure, once my son (and any other kids I have) grow up and become independent, I'll just have more time to go back to pursuing my artistic endeavors. But in recent weeks, as he is growing and able to do more things with me, such as play hide and seek as I crawl around and chase him, I am starting to see how much I will miss these things once they pass.
A part of me is sad that the all-trusting bond between my son and I was broken for the first time. I imagine it only gets harder the more you have to say "no".
Labels: baby stuff, discipline