I almost hit my youngest this morning. It was the end of a few days, maybe months, of the unique parental torture called ‘sleep deprivation’. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired. Ever.
Most people think I’m a good Dad. Someone once commented that I was like Peppa Pig’s Dad (known as Daddy Pig) who never loses his cool and can, on discovering the kitchen and his children covered in mud, simply chuckle quietly and say “I think you’ve been jumping in muddy puddles! Now, let’s clean this up before your mother comes home” and then set to cleaning.
That’s the Dad I thought I’d be. That’s the Dad I’d like to be. I haven’t felt like that for a while now.
If you believe that true character is revealed in moments of great stress then it is possible I’m a mean, aggressive and ill-tempered man. My long-promised-still-upcoming post on illegal drugs and the ‘drug talk’ I even noted that in all my years of drug taking, even when doped to the eyeballs, I never exhibited an ounce of aggressiveness. I’m unsure if I can safely make that claim any more.
I’m not saying I don’t have a temper – your teenage years are an emotional roller coaster, you spend your twenties developing a stable emotional equilibrium then kids come along and you feel every emotion, every day – however my temper usually expresses itself through a stern whisper my eldest has come to understand requires immediate obedience. My personal discipline technique is to never show frustration or plead with a child to obey – I tell, then I count, then I punish. Usually with a timeout, sometimes with a spank (yes, I know, uncool and evil – sue me). Emotions should not come into play. Sure, it doesn’t always work like that but it works most of the time. Jas seems like a pretty stable child.
However Beth has never been a good sleeper. Combined with dealing with the death* of her twin brother the last eighteen months have been emotionally and physically draining. My crankiness has often been visible, sometimes a little more than visible. If I’m honest, this has been building up for months.
I’ve known I was at my limits for some time. But to sum up the last few days, several things went awry.
- Jas, Beth and I all fell sick
- On Tuesday, while sick at home with a likewise sick Beth, she insisted on being held all day long. This didn’t prevent her from crying, which was reasonably stressful
- Beth had been doing some nice sleeping nights, but suddenly went bad again
- My wife and I had lost track of ‘who gets up’ leading to 2am snippy arguments along the lines of “it’s your fucking turn” and “Don’t worry, I’ll fucking do it then”
- Last night, Beth basically screamed every fifteen minutes all night long
- During those fifteen minutes of quiet, I’d be coughing up lungfulls and not doing much sleeping
By 4am nothing would settle Beth and my wife brought her into our bed – with only slight success. As soon as my wife left the room to have a shower (around 5am, when you are awake, you might as well do something) Beth started screaming again and patting, holding, cuddling, holding standing up, holding sitting up, resting on lying down – nothing worked. Realising I was screaming inside my head “What the FUCK do you want?” (well, not all of it was inside my head and the stern whispers weren’t so in control) I put her safely on the bed propped between two pillows, popped earplugs in to take the edge off the volume and turned my back.
Later, when my wife went to dress Jas, she passed Beth to me who immediately resumed screaming. Now, Beth has always been a bit of a Mummy’s girl (Jas was, and still is, a Dad’s girl, bless) so it’s not uncommon for her to be much easily settled by her mum than her dad – so I usually laugh off her reaction. But after the most horrifying night and in a moment of pure insanity I twice raised my hand to backslap an eighteen month old baby. I know people often talk about seeing red – I saw nothing, I was in a deep, blind rage. It was a close thing.
I got up, walked into the next room and placed Beth, still screaming, in her cot and walked down to the kitchen to gaze into the backyard for a while.
So this is what the edge looks like.
I wonder how many dads step off it? Is this what abusive husbands do? Cross the line then spend ages justifying how they got there? I’m so fucking tired I really don’t care. My wife and I have a plan for tonight. Here’s hoping it is simply lessons learnt. I didn’t like myself this morning.
Sleep. I’d like some.