Self-created rules are rules

Editorial note: I am thinking about not posting this blog to Facebook anymore.  I was looking at what I wrote over the last few weeks and it feels insane to post most of this at all.  It is helpful because it does actually make my academic writing easier but I don’t think I need to be publicly accountable in the same way I did when I first started doing this.  So I think I am going to just post pictures from time to time and references to other articles.  I will still update my blog regularly but you won’t know it from looking on Facebook; I still find the writing meaningful and helpful.  So if you like reading things that I find deeply emotional you will know where to find them.  The main reason for this is that I just don’t care about Facebook that much, but I do care about writing things that I am working through.  Below is a letter to Miles.  It is obviously a literary trope to address something that I have been trying to work through but it also feels weirdly personal and I don’t know exactly how to deal with that yet.  Self-created rules are rules, though.  I am not deleting my Facebook account or anything (at least, yet), I think I just want the extra step of someone wanting to find the blog if I am going to continue writing like this.  UGH.  This is diarrhea…speaking of which:

Dear Miles,

If you are reading this years from now, please don’t be embarrassed unless, of course, your embarrassment is an empathetic response to me, then, by all means, please be embarrassed.  I would take your deep, empathetic embarrassment as a sign that I had done something right.  There are so many things that I was unprepared for in being your dad that they appear to form a monolith.  But really it was little things that you were supposed to do that caused me the most trouble.

For instance, I feel like we are moving out of a phase right now where your responses to things are only physical and becoming more verbal.  This is a fancy way of saying you are kicking and hitting me less and less.  You are using words to express yourself more and more.  It is really wonderful for two reasons: 1. I don’t like being hit and 2. I like watching you mess with language.  I picture myself in your shoes, fifteen or twenty years from now and feeling deep regret for hitting for me and I picture this because this is how I feel about my past.  Please, that is not what I want.  The expressing with physical hitting and kicking was what kids your age are supposed to do.  I admit, I was frustrated the first several dozen times it happened.  And then, one day, I was talking to one of your teachers at daycare and they said, “Well, this is what kids do at this age.”  That finally clicked with me, and my mind was blown.  You were/are going through a natural developmental process and I was so frustrated that you were doing what you were supposed to do.  I became almost like a zen master in the face of further adversity; until, of course, the next thing rolls around and I have to be reminded of this lesson again (and again).

This is a long way to say that I am sorry I flushed your underwear down the toilet.  You won’t remember this, I don’t think, but for two Saturdays in a row, while your mom was at Yoga, I put you down for your nap and you didn’t fall asleep.  Instead, both times, you poked your head out of your door and told me you pooped in your underpants.  Now, I understand if you feel embarrassed by me writing this but–and I mean this sincerely–it is what you are supposed to do.  I never knew how hard it would be potty trained.  I certainly don’t remember my own potty training.  Gaining some measure of awareness of your own body is kind of an incredible thing.  (As an aside, look at Spinoza, if you are interested; “We do not yet know what the body can do” although I don’t think Spinoza was talking about pooping…but maybe he was.)  This was you gaining some awareness.

I feel like I always had awareness that pooping was some sort of shameful act.  The bathrooms at my high school didn’t have doors on the stalls.  Can you imagine that?  I used to walk in to use a urinal and see some junior or senior sitting on the toilet reading the paper, making unholy sounds and feel equal parts ashamed and awed.  It seemed so private an act and here was this dude (the best possible descriptor here), using that toilet because, well, he had to go.  I didn’t poop at high school; not once in four years.  How insane is that?  On occasion, before soccer practice, I would tear up the road to go to Hardee’s just so I could use a stall with a door.  The first time I saw the kid’s book Everybody Poops, I blushed.  Can you believe that?  As someone who was (probably) in their late twenties, being that embarrassed?  Our bodies are strange, weird, biological organisms; there is nothing to be ashamed of in that.

I admit I was frustrated when you poked your head out and told me what you had done.  This was something I was completely unprepared to deal with and that manifested itself in my voice.  That first Saturday I thought I had a plan and I soaked your underwear in the toilet while I gave you a bath.  Then I scrubbed them once I got you back to sleep and then washed them in the machine on a couple of cycles.  They were now the cleanest pair of underwear the world has ever known.  Kings would feel privileged to wear this underwear.  I felt like I had accomplished something.

That second Saturday, though, I couldn’t believe you did it again.  To reiterate: it was what you were supposed to do.  My thick-headedness never registered that fact, though, and I was frustrated again and I know you heard that in my voice.  I am sorry, buddy.  I tried to repeat the cycle from the week before but this time, while you were putting on a pull-up, I decided to get a jump on things and start rinsing and scrubbing.  I flushed the toilet once to rinse everything and pushed your underwear to the side of the bowl.  I figured I would flush it one more time while I was washing my hands for good measure.  It was on that second flush that you stared at me and said, “Daddy, why did you flush my underpants?”  It was an honest mistake.  I was trying to do so many things and my head was spinning.  The lovely moments of holding you after your bath and singing you, per request, made-up songs about lights and sinks while you were wrapped up in a towel was crashing against the unpleasant task of cleaning out underwear.  The former is sweeter because of the latter; I know that now, but in that particular moment, I felt lost.  I know you really liked that pair of underwear.  I am sorry for my accident.  I hope the replacement pack of Sesame Street underwear made up for it.  I know your mom and I laugh at how cute you are when you sing songs about them and run around in them.  You really are the cutest kid.

I am so proud to be your dad.  And you won’t probably remember any of this. Maybe it will register as a feeling someday like, “I don’t remember anything from being really young, but I do remember feeling loved.  It was warm and enveloping.”  If nothing else, remember these early failings were mine, not yours.  You do exactly what you are supposed to do.  My job is to try to teach you with love.  Sorry when I don’t do that as well as I would like.


Gratuitous picture of the day (Miles-was-frozen-but-I-appreciated-the-effort edition):





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2 responses to “Self-created rules are rules

  1. -V-

    What a beautiful reminder that the things we are supposed to do (and even meant to do) are not always easy, for ourselves and others. Being in the world is an act of honesty and compromise.

  2. i went through different anxieties with each of my children. haley, ethan, and lucian have had their own challenges in their development from “toddler” to child. none of my children where biters, but i remember one of their teachers stating (to paraphrase), “they try and use all of their senses to make sense of their world.” i took this to mean that the child biting lucian was a friend just trying to experience him in a different and more meaningful way. the next day he went to a different day care.

    as a trope, i think you are being a little harsh. like many things, i think that this will become an acceptable form of writing. a true trope for our time is going to be “a list of 10 best…” whatever. cheers! pt

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