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. Here, Francis, a 45-year-old father in Mobile, Alabama, discusses how his kid’s big mess over spring break made him blow his top.
Okay, so when was the last time you lost it?
A few nights ago. I stepped on a toy car, lost my footing, and fell on my ass. I know, I know, it was the most cliché dad thing of all time. But it hurt. Bad. One of those unexpected falls where it just knocks the wind out of you. I was angry that I fell. But the fact that the car was still there really pissed me off.
Had you had some discussions with your kids about keeping things tidy?
Many. I have three boys aged 5,7, and 9. That breeds chaos and mess. And I love it. They’re healthy boys who are always playing and wresting and stuff like that. They really get along. Which is amazing. But they’re little tornadoes and we need to teach them some accountability. Three or four months ago my wife and I completely redid their playroom and gave them each independent bins to put their toys away. Bigger stuff like basketball hoops had their own closet. Labeled and everything. We then set one toy in, one toy out policy to keep mess to a minimum and rewarded cleanliness with stickers and these tickets that gave the cleanest one 15 minutes more TV time a week.
Did it work?
It did for the most part. There was a learning curve, of course. But after a few weeks, the kids got pretty good at paying attention to putting away their stuff. Before, I’d find footballs and plastic trucks and action figures and you name it in every corner of the house. But with practice, the kids were binning their stuff.
But not all the time.
Obviously not. My kids were home on spring break and during the nights I’d come home and find all these toys strewn about. My wife was off too and trying to keep the order but with the kids home all day. I understand how things would remain left out. But I was still pissed. Adrenaline was pumping.
So what happened?
I banged on a pot.
I banged on a pot, which is our symbol for a family meeting.
What time was it?
Probably 9 o’clock.
Aggressive. That was probably pretty terrifying for the kids.
I heard them screwing around in their room – they all share one – so it’s not like they were all sleeping. But, it definitely sent a message.
Where did you guys assemble?
In the family room – that’s our normal place. And when they entered the room, I held the car up and proceeded to yell at them about why leaving their stuff around is sloppy and I could’ve gotten killed and all this stuff and how I expected better than them. They all hung their heads and were bummed. I get it – they were on spring break and were having a good time. But I wanted to send a message.
What happened next?
I gave them the ‘I’m very disappointed’ schpiel and then sent them back to bed. And yes, I felt shitty about myself about thirty seconds about the whole thing. I normally will take a minute to cool down. But I didn’t.
Do you know what made you really lose it?
Yeah. I was working late all that week. And I guess I was really disappointed to not be able to hang out with my guys during their break. That’s prime time for them, man. They’re psyched because they don’t have school and get to be rambunctious kids. I missed out on that because I was forced to work late. And that really sucks. I wanted to be a part of the fun.
Did you resolve this with your kids?
I did. The next day was Friday and I went to work super early so that I could finish everything and get home early. It was cold but it was bright outside. So I brought my kids out to the park for our favorite activity, a game of football. We spent the afternoon and early evening running patterns and tackling each other. We all had a great time.
Were things cleaner when you got home?
God no. But what the hell does it matter?