Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dudes discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. This time, Alexander, 37, a realtor from Portland goes off over a contraband iPad.
When was the last time you yelled?
A few months back I was picking my son up from his mother’s house and I noticed he had his iPad behind his back.
Why was this such a big deal?
The iPad is from my house, and he hadn’t asked permission to take it or take it to school. As I was getting out to greet him and help him into our car, I saw him quickly stuff it into his backpack.
What did you do?
I asked him what he had behind his back, just trying to give him the chance to come clean. As soon as I saw the look on his face we both knew he was busted. The kid can’t lie to save his life. Instead of just telling me that he had taken his iPad from my house to his mother’s, and then to school, he doubled down and lied. He wouldn’t last a hand in the World Series of Poker.
Were you stewing mad?
Well, I’m driving us home for the one night that we were able to be together for the next three days, and I feel the frustration building up inside of me. No one particularly likes being lied to and it’s exponentially less fun to be lied to by your 8-year-old with whom you had big fun plans to do that night with. You can’t exactly take the kid to the trampoline park to play when he’s working on a long con right under your nose.
So what eventually set you off?
It was such an avoidable situation. Maybe it was because his lie was jeopardizing the big night at the trampoline park – playing dodgeball and eating pizza until we puked — that I had planned. Either way, I could feel me losing it.
How did you try to maintain composure?
When we got in the house I opened his backpack and pulled out the iPad. His face was simultaneously priceless and devastated. The kid was busted, and he knew he made it worse by lying. So I laid into him. I let him know that I had spotted the iPad in the driveway. I knew he was lying to me the entire time in the car. I told him how disrespectful it was to lie to a parent. I was on a roll.
What was his reaction?
Even at my maddest I always try to create teachable moments and show him how relationships work by walking him through things. So I asked him why he didn’t just tell me the truth. Usually he’ll tell me a direct answer. “Because I didn’t want to get in trouble.” Or, “I thought I could get away with it.” But all he said was “I don’t know” He’s almost nine years old. He knew. I asked him over and over, and he kept saying the same thing. Every time he did, I got madder and madder.
I finally snapped. When I snap, I actually snap. I kind of shut down for a few seconds that feels like an eternity and I evaluate what’s going on. During this short circuit, I looked at my son and realized that he had tears in his eyes and on his cheek. He was beside himself and simply didn’t know how to get out of the cycle we had created together. All he knew was “I don’t know”. I had made the situation worse by not realizing that I was antagonizing him.
What happened once the dust had settled?
I continued to talk to him about how what he did was wrong, and tried to communicate the importance of trust. Being a father in a separated family is tough, so the trust has to be ironclad in order to make your relationship grow. He needs to trust that I’ll always love him, even when I can’t be there to tuck him in at night. And I need to trust his honesty so I can do my best to help guide him. So, as we talked through everything, he said he was sorry for his part, and I asked his forgiveness for pushing him and not recognizing the situation I had helped create. Again, living with a separated family, our time together already starts at 50 percent, so it’s my job to make that 50 percent feel like the 110 percent he deserves.
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