The Bribery Trap

Fatherhood has changed me. No doubt about it. I think differently, act more sensibly. I’ve become more empathetic, compassionate – I feeeel more. I also have less hair, more wrinkles and a twitch developing over my right eye, but all in all, I’m a better person because of those little bundles of chubbiness.

Being a stay-at-home dad has also taught me some vital parenting lessons. Always have wipes, food and a change of clothes. Basic stuff. Listen to your children, talk to them in a way in which you’d like to be spoken to. No problem. Be an expert negotiator. Erm, not so much. I never believed I’d have to use so much bribery, ahem, bargaining power, to parent my pre-school boy.

My ten-month-old is taking it easy on me thankfully, but I need to get this right before he becomes wise enough to play the game. Yes, you can have a second chocolate bar. Yes, you can watch Paw Patrol. Yes, just as long as we leave soft play before the school kids get here … I used to scoff into my single man’s red wine, watching parents shoving iPhones into their kids’ faces in restaurants. ‘You’ll never see me do that,’ scoff, scoff, scoff. What a fool, what a naïve fool I was. I really miss that guy.

How did I fall into this trap? Sleep deprivation, probably. Wanting an easy life, definitely. But it’s not an easy life is it? Not in the end. Eventually, I’ll have nothing to give, and then what? When they’ve eaten all the cakes, watched all the DVDs and drank all the variations of concentrated organic juice this world has to offer, what’s next? When my son was a toddler, I could make everything sound amazing. Even going home. But why leave adventure and new friends without a fuss when he can get something out of it? I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve been trying to protect him from feelings of disappointment. When he reacts to a decision which infringes upon his happiness, like leaving
a fun event or not eating all the grapes in one sitting, I’ve plastered over his natural response to disappointment with a reward system that only delays his frustration before it moves onto the next issue. Now that I’m a full-time stay- at-home Dad, this cannot continue.

My plan is two-fold. Firstly, better time management. Simpler days, less activities but more time to enjoy them. Secondly, my boys are going to get frustrated, tired and annoyed, but I think that’s only a small percentage of the day compared to the rest which is filled with new experiences, joy and unconditional love. Seriously, I’m like a proper thinking, mature grown up now. Scary.

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