Mutiny on the classroom rug

First, a reminder.  The start date of my 10-week men’s counseling group was moved back to next Monday, September 19th.  The group is from 715-830.  I have one spot left.  If you’re interested, please let me know.

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My first real job was as an 8th teacher. And Mr. E was the cool teacher! I was 24, approachable, friendly, and understanding. Kids talked to me about all sorts of important stuff: parents, siblings, drugs, gangs, girls/boys, sex, etc. When I turned 25, they threw me a surprise birthday party. I loved the kids and the kids loved me.

Unfortunately, being this kind of teacher had downsides. The threadbare carpet was perfect for fast walking all over me.  A couple of times kids put their arms around each other a bit more intimately than they should, and I didn’t say much. Or if I did, it certainly wasn’t enough to have them stop. Other times, kids practiced their tagging techniques on the blackboard. Admittedly, I was a bit naive, but once I figured it out, I didn’t say much.

Every once in the while, out of fear of a mutiny, the captain tried to take firmer control of the wheel. Although I should have had some kids walk the plank to the office, I tried to solve the problems in-ship, and I frequently yelled loudly enough that people heard me in the parking lot. I threatened punitive consequences. As a law-abiding, non-believer in corporal punishment, guy who valued his job, the ruler didn’t come out. However, I threatened losses of privileges that were way out of proportion to their offenses.

Many of the kids were understandably confused and would try to justify their behavior and say, “yeah but…” I wasn’t interested and I immediately stopped them and said, “no yeah butts.” I’d follow-up with something angry. Soon after, my frustration dispelled, the seas calmed and the ship was righted.  Then we went on with our day, back to the way things were. Nothing changed.

Fast-forward 24 years to the summer just completed: our family went through a few gigantic changes, some of which I’ve discussed previously, and things got a bit choppy. At one point, my wife, kindly, gently and sweetly (or something close to that) let me know that I’d been yelling and/or mean to KD. As you might guess, I felt awful.

But before buying this hook line and sinker, I wanted to get KD’s opinion. Sadly, he agreed with my wife, and, when asked, told me it had been going on for about a year. I apologized profusely and told him I’d work on it.

When I went back to my quarters, I thought about the conversations and had a difficult time taking it all in. After all, I work a billion hours a week and come home late four nights/week. Yet I’m up seven mornings a week with KD, who is an extremely early riser. I cook. I clean bathrooms. I do a bunch of other little and big things around the house. I certainly pull my share of the load. Only a saint wouldn’t be crabby, right?

When I thought a little bit more, I realized I was doing my own “yeah butting.” In effect, I was justifying my behavior. Even though I’m busting my ass to be a good dad, spouse, and provider, it’s not OK for me to be mean. I committed to myself to work on things, and I think I have.

Fast forward to the present moment. Life has settled down. Our new house is awesome. My wife, KD, and I are back in a good rhythm with school, work, and other stuff. We just had a really good weekend with soccer, BBQ’ing, and cleaning the house (which we made fun). Sure, things are far from perfect. Just his morning, KD told me I wasn’t being peaceful when I told him he needed to get ready for school. Sure, I raised my voice a few decibels, but I was far from yelling. And it came after asking him calmly six times to stop dilly-dallying and get ready for school. I think my “yeah buts” are in the rear view mirror and I’m sailing on calmer seas.

As usual, this therapist, spouse and parent sails through life, doing the best I can.

Until next time…

2 Responses to Mutiny on the classroom rug
  1. Larry
    September 12, 2016 | 8:08 pm

    It’s hard to avoid that yeah butting when we are accused of something. We are all our own best lawyers.
    It sounds like you owned the problem and are doing what you can about it. That’s great!
    Larry recently posted..If Every Day was the First DayMy Profile

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      September 13, 2016 | 10:30 am

      Right, we can’t tell say to our family, “Your honor, I object!” Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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