Thursday, September 13, 2012


I consider myself a pretty empathetic person. When I hear about a teenaged girl devastated by the pimple on her face the morning of prom, I feel devastated for her. When a friend tells me he is proud of the papier mache walrus he made, I feel proud for him. When an old woman is anxiously awaiting the results of her gymnastics performance, I am anxious for her. I can often understand why people do or say the things they do, because I can imagine how I would feel if I were in their shoes. Not trying to toot my own horn here, just trying to make an honest assessment.

This image would totally make sense here if you were a comic book geek. 
The thing is, empathy is not always a good thing. The downside of empathy is that I often find myself mirroring the feelings of people around me--particularly negative feelings, like sadness, frustration, and anger. This makes caring for children, who are emotional jumping beans, stressful. When my kids come home from school fighting with each other, I feel the tension the moment they walk in the door, and I jump right into the fray. When S-Boogie gets frustrated with an art project that isn't going her way, I get frustrated along with her. When Little Dude is yelling at P-Bibby, I yell at him to stop yelling. I am not that parent who responds to a temper tantrum with a calm "Let's talk about how we're feeling." I am that parent who throws a temper tantrum of my own.

For the sake of modeling good behavior, and for my own sanity, I need to change this. My goal is to maintain a cheerful attitude even when my kids are grumpy and rude. My goal is to be the kind of parent who makes my kids laugh when they're upset, who calms them down by singing a silly song. My goal is to not be Angry Dad. But as lofty as these goals may be, I'm not stupid--I know I won't change overnight. So I'm not going to tell myself that I'm going to never let other people's moods affect me again. Instead, I'll start small. My kids are coming over to my house tomorrow afternoon, and they stay until Sunday morning. That's a little less than 48 hours. For a little less than 48 hours, I can choose to be calm and cheerful, regardless of what other emotions are being thrown at me. I'll report back on how it goes.
No, Dr. Fate, your powers will not work on my emotion-controlling masks. 

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