In this edition of Founding Fathers Matt Fisher talks about dealing with emotions and handling anger. How do dads keep from Hulking out? HULK SMASH.
I think there are two types of angry people.
The first type are prone to rage because that’s what they’ve observed. Maybe they came from a home where anger was the only valid form of communication. Perhaps, they feel that they’ve been dealt a crap hand by life, and the only thing they can think to do is be hateful about it.
The second type are what I call Hulks.
Hulks are named after legendary comic book character Dr. Bruce Banner’s alter ego. Banner is a mild mannered and emotionally unavailable geek. Emotions are illogical, precarious, and more complicated then even his advanced gamma radiation research. Whenever things become emotionally complex for Banner (i.e. his girlfriend breaks up with him or someone insults him on the bus) he reverts to a superpowered caveman who refers to himself as The Hulk. Hulks are angry because it’s easy. They consolidate their complicated emotional portfolio into one all-encompassing and primordially simple feeling: anger.
I’m definitely NOT the former; I don’t feel like the hand I’ve been dealt by life is anything short of a royal flush, and I’m thankful for it every minute. My parents were ever-civil and loving even in their disagreements, and we didn’t use anger or aggression as a means to get things done. I pray daily that my son’s home life is comparable to my own growing up, and I’d feel like I won the lottery if I improved on the job my parents did.
This leaves me squarely in the “Hulk” category.
I was an emotional kid, and I’m afraid my 4-month old — Cash — is already the same. I was the preschooler who had a meltdown EVERY day when mom dropped him off. When I was in 4th grade I read a Batman story arc where the Caped Crusader broke up a child smuggling ring. It took days for my parents to calm me down. I was the chubby middle schooler who got beat up in front of the local movie theatre — and cried about it. As a result, I became the high school dropout who’d rather render someone unconscious with a pair of flea-market brass knuckles than feel lots of feelings all the time.
So now, here I am, a married man with a full-time job and an education, holding the most perfect little human I’ve ever laid eyes on. This is the emotional equivalent of dropping a hydrogen bomb into a volcano. When I held my son for the first time I was rocked to my very core. I realized that all the emotional barriers I’d built up around myself were nothing but childish, neanderthal reactions of a hurt little boy in the body of a grown man.
I’m faced with a choice.
If I stop this charade of he-man antics — that masks my true weepy nature — am I dooming my son to the childhood of a blubbery mama’s boy? He’ll constantly fight the torrent of emotions that so often knocked me to the ground on my trip from child to adult. Don’t I want him to see me as a tough guy, unwilling to take shit from anyone? Shouldn’t he know that I have the ability to stand strong in the face of adversity for my family?
If I stick with the Hulk, then I run the risk of becoming one of THOSE parents. The low-class freaks you hear about on the news who punch tee ball coaches and threaten 6-year-olds on playgrounds. Just because I can say, with absolute certainty, that I would never hurt my wife or son doesn’t mean that using rage as a crutch against more complex emotions wouldn’t cause extremely serious damage to our family unit!
So what do we Bruce Banners do to keep from becoming awful parents?
I’ve been a crybaby for 26 years, a meathead for 8, and a dad for less then 6 months. I don’t really have any definitive answers on what to do with anger as a father. The only thing I can think to do right now is just let myself feel the feelings I feel and hope to high-heaven that my wife and son won’t be ashamed by my lack of grit.
Photo by tinyfroglet.