Over the past year it has become clear to me that ever since my son Walter was born six years ago, I parent in a repeating loop. The first phase of this parenting loop usually lasts for somewhere between two and three weeks, and the second and final phase coasts for five to six weeks. Let me explain.
When the parenting loop resets, the initial phase comes on subtly. I suspect I’m in it when I find myself bothered by normal, every-day behaviors of Walter’s. I’m talking really dumb stuff to get mad about. The kinds of things that couples who have been married for 60 years and hate one another but refuse to get divorced because it’s too late to even bother getting annoyed by. Things like breathing or tying shoelaces. “I can’t stand how you blink your eyes!” etc.
I am certain the loop has reset when I get genuinely pissed off at Walter about the same thing for a minimum of two days in a row. Most recently it was because I thought he wasn’t being grateful enough. This is embarrassing but true. I was mad at my son for not thanking me enough. But I’m actually giving myself too much credit here. What I should say is that I should be certain, but I’m often too dense to notice the loop reset until it has entered phase two.
Phase two is when Walter starts being awesome again. He remembers how to be a team player, and not every disagreement is the end of his world. Bath time and brushing teeth are no longer the most dreaded parts of the day. The latter part of the parenting loop is fun because Walter and I get to do things together like go out to dinner and movies without getting on each other’s nerves. This is also the phase where I palm-smack my forehead and realize that I did it again. I yet again repeated the cycle that I’m doomed to relive as long as I’m a parent.
In simpler terms, the cycle is simply Walter growing up. He experiences a small mental progression, usually in a way that enhances his ability to more profoundly perceive and understand his emotional relationships with those people around him. And I’m no expert, but this is probably a little confusing to a kid. All of a sudden, all the people in your life seem to treat you a little bit differently, but you can’t put your finger on why. It’s probably stressful, and the stress might manifest as a reduced amount of patience. I don’t know if kids are the same, but when I‘m stressed out I have difficulty finding reserves of patience for the rigors of parenthood.
And of course, I complicate everything by not realizing the change in my own son. When Walter experiences these periods of emotional growth, I inadvertently view them as my kid being a pain in the ass. In reality, I’m the one being a pain in the ass by not at least meeting Walter halfway on the new ways he would like things done and the different ways he would like to be treated.
Kids grow up. They do it every day without even trying. So it’s outrageous that I can’t seem to remember the inexorable truth of having children: they get older. I obviously want my son to grow and learn and love and share, so you would think I would remember, at least once, that Walter is bound to repeat his cycle of growth. He grows out of behaviors as fast as he grows out of shoes.
Yet I repeat the cycle again and again. Maybe this parenting loop is the essence of fatherhood. Our children grow, we don’t realize it in time, we drive each other nuts for a while, and then we learn new ways to love one another. If so, I guess I can live with that.
This story was republished from Medium. You can read Drew Hubbard’s original post here.