Default Dad Setting

default-dad-settings

I came around the corner from the hallway into the kitchen and was presented with the sight of my eleven-year-old daughter going to-and-fro with pots of water boiling, cooking materials everywhere, and headphones on her ears.  My wife had taken our youngest son to yet another therapy session (being a Special Needs Mom is tough), the other kids were nowhere to be seen, and I had just come off a long day of work.

In a split second, I opened my mouth.

“What’re you doing?!?” I half-asked and half-accused.

“Mom asked me to make supper!” She yelled half-defensive and half-over the sound in her headphones.

“Well,” I sputtered, “do you know how?  What are you making?  Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

She did know what she was doing.  Not long after, everyone was home and the whole family sat down to a feast of chicken noodle soup, fresh-baked bread, and deli meat and cheese.  It was great and I was (and am) proud of her.

I also realized I owed her an apology.

My default setting as a dad seems to be to immediately control the situation.  When I’m surprised or confused by my kids, my instinct is to take over and assert myself.  I don't treat my coworkers or my wife that way, but when it comes to my kids, I have a real habit of treating them like, well, kids half their age.  My reactions lead to quite a few hurt feelings in my kids, confusion for my wife, and apologies from me.

I’m sure there’s a clever explanation about how I’m projecting my lack of confidence in myself onto my kids, but that’s not really the point.

The point is that I know I have a default.  As much as I wish it were different and whatever the reason I have it, the reality is that it’s there.  Denying it won’t help and neither will wishing it were different.  The important thing for me is to recognize what my default is.

I know what my other reaction is, too.  My ideal reaction.  I know how I want to react when I’m caught off guard.  I want to observe and listen.  I want to give the benefit of the doubt.  I want to discern real danger for my kids, which needs immediate action, from mere confusion within me that I need to tolerate until I can sort things out in a healthy way.

Changing a default setting isn’t easy, for all I know it’s not even possible!  But knowing what my default is and knowing what I want it to be allows me to know if I did well or poorly, to learn from situations, and to develop ways to do a little better next time.

What’re your default settings?  How do you instinctively react in the various aspects of your life?  Do you know what they are and what you want them to be?  The path forward is to recognize how you’re wired, what you want, and have the courage to bring yourself closer to your goal.  

I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to walk into a messy kitchen with one of my children whimsically cooking away, immediately open my mouth, and say “thank you for feeding your family!”  Maybe I never will, but I’d rather try than give up.  

What about you?

Love/Hate Relationship with Phones
Special Needs Mommin...Is Hard

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