The fear of being the bad guy
We all know that when it comes to kids, one of the most common forms of discipline and / or parenting is the tried and tested good cop / bad cop routine. As cheesy and outdated (according to the Nanny McFee types of this modern world) as it appears, there is no denying that it works. In our house it was typically Renee that was the voice of reason and sympathy, while I seemed to excel at the ranting, raving, temple-vein-popping bad guy. (surprise surprise 🤣)
Now, as you’d imagine, I really don’t give two-fifths-of-fuck-all if this is acceptable parenting in this cotton wool wrapped society of ours today. And I don’t believe for a second, anyone that pipe’s up with “we would never do this in our house”, because, well, you’re a lying sack of shit.
Anyway, onto the point of this whole shebang.
We had a little occurrence today, and by “occurrence” I mean G had a semi meltdown for reasons I’m still trying to fathom. There were tears, scowls, an extended period of arm crossing and back turning and, of course, accusations and falsification of numerous facts.
The event itself is of no consequence, we all know that this shit happens way too frequently to deserve an in-depth post-game analysis. Suffice to say, there came a moment in the spat that bad cop / angry Dad was the only logical and appropriate course of action.
Which, while the veins in my temple were still throbbing, brought the matter to a timely and effective close. I felt strong, authoritive and very parentey.
But then I realised I had to follow through.
The car ride home was icy at best, but it was when we got inside and my myriad of consequences came in to effect, the proverbial really hit the fan. After all the moment had passed and everyone was seemingly ok again.
But rather than feeling strong and authoritive, I felt worried and cautious. Why? Because during the consequent tears and tirades of unfairness, I was concerned that I was driving an irretrievable wedge into my relationship with G, a relationship that has been forged upon connection and similarity, on comradere and unity. And here I was smashing those barriers with an angry Dad ice pick.
I felt (irrationality) that I was pushing her away, and at such a pivotal age in a young girl’s life, that it could spell disaster for our future relationship as father & daughter. And I don’t have any backup this time.
Don’t worry though my empathetic friends, it was naturally nowhere near as dramatic and tenuous as my overly active mind makes out. It’s nigh on 3 hours later and you would be hard pressed to imagine such a catastrophic event had even taken place.
It has in retrospect, however, brought to mind the potential fragility of the solo parent’s emotions. Had Renee been here, I would surely have continued the upset, bad cop routine until Renee had coaxed a “look how upset you’ve made your father” apology from the stubborn little offender. Yet I realise today that this is the first time I have “stuck to my guns” since her passing. (in a meaningful way)
Yes it all worked out OK. Yes I hope that this was a lesson hard earned for the little witch, and indeed myself. But I feel this is an overlooked, if even contemplated, negative to being a solo parent.
We don’t get to be the bad cop and the good cop at the same time. Can you imagine the confusion as we go from ranting and raving to hair stroking and cuddles?
There is a subconscious need to be everything and all in our defined roles within the core family unit. There is no avoiding it and no changing the fact. It is simply something that we have to grapple with, make concessions for and try our hardest to be. Which yes, sucks big hairy balls most of the time, but is infinitely rewarding when accomplished in even the most fleeting of moments.
I hope that there are a few of you out there that read this, breathe a sigh of relief and pour that 3rd glass of wine, knowing that you are not insane or even remotely unique in your fears.
For me, however, I feel empowered. To be the bad cop and/or the good cop when needed. I think I’ve finally realised that I can be everything the kids need. I can bring these little monkeys up without fear of adequacy. They don’t judge me for only being a Dad, in fact if I do it right, they may even just admire me for it.
So if you’re bogged down in the trenches of solo parenting, fear not, your kids appreciate everything you do way more than you suspect. Even when you’re a grumpy, swearing, tactless shit. ✌