Everybody has that one friend for whom they’re constantly making excuses.
“He’s not normally like this,” or “He’s cool once you get to know him,” or “He’s got a weird sense of humor.”
After a while, though, it starts to become apparent that despite your friendship, that’s an awful lot of caveats. Maybe it’s time for the guy to start taking some of the blame for his own behavior.
Lately, that’s how I feel about my son.
I’m not going to lie: he can be pretty miserable to be around sometimes. It definitely comes and goes; he’s often his usual happy-go-lucky self. But the past few months have been tougher than usual.
At first, if we went out to see some friends and he started acting like a monster, I’d get embarrassed and quickly qualify his behavior:
“He didn’t get his nap today.”
“He doesn’t like the bright lights.”
“We fed him after midnight. Big mistake.”
But nowadays, I find myself just outright blaming him.
Obviously you can’t really blame a 2-year-old for being a 2-year-old. But you can stop making excuses for them. And several months into the carnival of horrors that is my son’s terrible twos, I’m done taking the blame for his bad behavior. Sorry son, but sometimes it’s not me, it’s you.
Yesterday, I was at a bar with some friends. My wife arrived a little later, Detective Munch by her side, and joined us for a drink or two. My son hadn’t met everyone at the table, but he usually warms up to people pretty quickly. Unfortunately, he’s milking this “terrible” stuff, so after spending the first few minutes with his face tucked into Mom’s neck, he started screaming every time someone so much as glanced in his direction. As a hardened veteran of these outbursts, and one who is quite sick of this phase of my son’s life, I’ve stopped sugarcoating it. Instead of offering some half-assed explanation for my kid’s bad attitude, I just told everyone he was an asshole.
“Don’t mind him; screaming is his default mode these days. It’s nothing personal, he’s just being a dick.”
I’m done protecting him from himself. Now that he’s almost three, it’s time for him to take personal responsibility for his behavior. Not everything he does is a result of something his mommy or his daddy has done. He’s an individual; he makes his own choices. This is America! Right now, he’s choosing to be a massive pain in the ass, and I’m going to let him dig his own grave.
“Yeah, I’m his dad, but he’s his own man. He’s the one who threw the menu at you, so spit in his food, not mine.”
It’s actually quite liberating, this new outlook. Of course, there’s a difference between no longer making excuses for my son’s bad behavior and letting that behavior go unchecked, and I’m certainly not advocating the latter. We still discipline, and we’ll still take a fair amount of responsibility for the person he eventually becomes, but the terrible twos are different. It’s something every parent goes through, regardless of how lenient or strict they are, and we just need to weather the storm. And while we do, we’re going to stop letting him off the hook.
It’s his own reputation he’s ruining and, if he keeps this up, he’ll be persona non grata at every watering hole in town.