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, Sean, 35, a father of two explains how losing his cool during a bedtime battle with his 5-year old taught him an important lesson in parenting at an ungodly hour.
So, when was the last time you yelled?
At my daughter, pretty recently actually.
She’s always been a good sleeper. She is amazing at bedtime, and like a clock. Unless something is off like family visiting or when she’s sick, she goes to bed. We just came back from vacation and everyone was happy to be sleeping in their own bed comfortably after a month away from home. But not my daughter. She was having a hard time going back to sleeping alone, after a month sharing a bed with me. A few days after being home, she just wasn’t going down to bed alone. She would fall asleep with me at her bedside or once I left the room she would wake up crying hysterically, or she’d just walk around saying that she just couldn’t sleep.
So when did you yell at her?
Well, I slowly started getting more and more frustrated with her night after night. Finally one night, after an hour of prodding, she told me her Finding Nemo poster on the wall was creepy. The thing has been up on her wall for like a year, but you know, like a good father I ripped the damn poster down. It was late and I was tired of laying on the floor. I kissed her goodnight and tried again. Of course, she quickly started crying and weeping and whining that she just couldn’t sleep. Then she asked for a night light. My daughter is 5-years old, but fine, I want to make her happy, so I scoured the house for one. I found one, plugged it in, and tried again to see if she could sleep and minutes later, she was up again.
Was that your breaking point?
Yeah I stormed up into her room and laid down with a firm “GO TO SLEEP!” and she almost did. I got up to leave her room and, sure enough, she popped up and started crying, “I just can’t sleep, I just can’t!” I asked her, “What can I do to help you sleep?” and she answered, “Sleep in bed with me!”
I lost my mind. I don’t remember what exactly I said, but I might have cursed and said, “No fucking way!” Maybe I didn’t. I can’t really remember; I don’t curse around my kids, but I do know that I started yelling and screaming how I couldn’t understand what her problem was. I don’t even know what time it was anymore. I was so dead tired and getting a little sore. After a good minute or two of me losing my cool, my sweet little 5-year old says, “Dad. The truth? I am nervous to see my friends at school…”
How did that make you feel?
I instantly felt like the world’s biggest asshole and just about started crying. Here I am losing my shit when my little girl is just having some anxiety issues about starting first grade. She hadn’t seen her friends in over a month. It was more about seeing them then it was about school itself. After all that she finally fell asleep.
Did her sleep time go back to normal?
The next night was a bit better and it kept getting better until she started school. I also ended up setting a playdate for her the next day at our house and tried to have one with each of her friends following up to the first day back. After that, everything went right back to normal.