Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dads 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. In our inaugural installment, Chris, a 38-year-old father in Syracuse, New York, discusses a recent Sunday afternoon when his 8-year-old son set him off.
Set the scene. What were you doing?
It was a Sunday and I was in the yard — weeding, watering, putting more nets around into my vegetable garden because the squirrels keep taking bites out of my tomatoes. You know, those tasks you spend your weekend doing when you have a family. I’ve always wanted a yard and now that I have one I generally enjoy the upkeep. But it was pretty hot out and at that minute I would’ve much rather been inside on the couch.
My son, who’s eight going on nine, was at the other end of our yard. It’s small, I dunno, 70 feet long and like 30 feet wide. But he was over there throwing himself pop flies. Just launching them up into the air and tracking them into his glove. He’s in Little League this year and was working on his fielding. He’s not great but he’s not terrible and it was nice to see him work at getting better. I was proud of his work ethic.
Okay. So what happened that set you off?
While he’s getting better, my son doesn’t have the best aim. So I’m in the garden and I’m sweating and securing one of these nets when, all of a sudden, I feel something hit my shoulder, right on the hard lump of bone. I’d dislocated my shoulder a few times and that area has always been pretty tender. But I feel this sharp pain and the shock of it causes me to drop the nets and fall to my knees, taking down the net and a few tomato plants with me. It fucking hurt. Then, I see the baseball on the ground. Then I realize that my son had launched a fly too far and it landed on my shoulder.
What happened next?
I got up, looked at the mess around me and, honestly, went pretty ballistic. I screamed ‘Why didn’t you say anything!? Why didn’t you say heads up!?” And he just put his head down and muttered sorry. I told him to grab me some ice and I saw that tears were welling in his eyes. I hate seeing that, but honestly? At that moment, I didn’t really care. I could feel a welt growing on my arm. He came back out, gave me an ice pack, and I told him to go to his room.
What do you think set you off.
One, because my shoulder was fucking throbbing. And two, because he didn’t call out. My son needs to be told things 100 times before they stick. I’d told him to say if the ball is going to hit someone but he clammed up. Plus, it was hot. It was Sunday. I would’ve rather been watching something inside with the A/C on than weeding in the garden. I also had some shit to prepare for Monday that would keep me up later than I would’ve liked, so there was that. The whole Sunday night dreads.
Did you regret yelling?
Almost immediately. I hate losing my cool. I really do. After I wrapped the ice on my shoulder, I went up to his room and he was sobbing into his pillow. He’s a sensitive kid and absolutely hates it when people yell. I knew that and I still did it because sometimes it needs to happen. Part of it is because people raise voices and I need him to understand that and not get scared in public when someone yells. I want him to be able to keep his senses. But I went over and told him that I was sorry for yelling. And I asked him why he thought I got so mad.
He needed some time but eventually he calmed down and said that it was because he hurt me with the ball. I said yes, but that’s okay, I knew it was an accident. And I explained that he needs to call out when the ball gets away from him. He then said that he was only really upset not that I yelled but because he thought I was really hurt. And that made me feel even worse.
Did anything else happen?
I mean I told my wife, who’d been out grocery shopping, what happened. She called me an idiot for yelling at him and flicked my sore shoulder. She understood that I lost my cool and was glad I’d already talked to him.
How long did it take for your son to come around?
Probably like 20 minutes afterward he was helping me repair the fallen nets. He’s a good kid. Afterward, I was tossing him some flys. Underhand. With my other arm. My shoulder was fine though. Honestly, I was being a bit of a pussy.