Lately, I have been getting more visits and likes on my Facebook page (thanks for that!) and I wanted to give everyone a deeper look into why I call myself “The Grumpy Dad”.
First off, I kind of look grumpy. People have told me that I am a big, intimidating-looking guy and have this sort of natural scowl. I’m not the bitter-beer-face-guy, but apparently I can give Dirty Harry a run for his money. My kids say I have a scary eyebrow thing going on when I’m concentrating or angry. When I stare off into space I look like I’m trying to burn a hole into someone’s forehead. I’m intense, OK?!
For the most part, I’m silly and like to have a good laugh. I love my kids and my wife, and I like having a good time with my closest friends. I can also be a pushover for those in need of a hand. But I also have a side that I am not proud of. I have a bad temper and I yell way more than I should. I get annoyed over trivial things and I have a skewed sense of injustice being done to me when someone cuts me off on the road. Give me some gluten and I’ll turn into the Hulk. So pass me my gluten-free cardboard and leave me alone!
The grump in me grew out of wounds that were formed from my early childhood and into my young adult life. Some wounds I have been able to heal while others still fester. It has been a long and arduous journey to find peace and healing, and man do I have some stories to tell. But I’ll save those for later because my 4 year old needs a sandwich soon. #hangry
As a kid, my life at home was tumultuous. My parents fought a lot and I witnessed violent situations. I had to experience my parents divorce and remarry each other in a year’s time, only to divorce again. My brother and I lived with my dad, who carried his own wounds. My dad was more than a grumpy dad; he was an angry dad. His anger hung a dark cloud over his head, and he was often physically and emotionally abusive. The odd thing is, for me, the emotional and verbal abuse stung the worse. Growing up, I was made to believe that I was worthless and dumb. The smallest mistakes I made would set my dad off, which made it feel like my brother and I had to walk on eggshells. I eventually developed anxiety that I still battle with today.
Witnessing regular abuse in my household, and being a victim myself, lead to my developing a temper of my own. The behaviors and words of my dad soon became my own, and I would find later in life that these habits would be hard to break. To this day, any loud clashes or yelling disturbs me and puts me in a flight-or-fight mode, which is an indication of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).
At school I was very sensitive and emotional. I would often cry when other children were mean and I was constantly tattling. I attached myself to my female teachers because they were kind and loving towards me. A child at this age should be taught self-control and be encouraged to display positive behavior. Instead, my father yelled and pushed me around when I did something wrong, and hardly ever commended me on something positive I did.
Studies have shown that a child’s well-being is adversely affected by parental divorce, with many experiencing shock, anger, fear, and loneliness. I felt all these emotions and would often cry at school when no one was looking because my life at home was hard. I would often go to school sad and feeling lonely, mad at my parents for failing me. Instead of growing up as a typical child, free of worries and oblivious to the ugliness around me, I was living in a depressing environment and felt a constant weight on my chest.
As I grew into an adult, I found that the demons of my past were out in full force to haunt me. Looking back, it was the years of mental and physical abuse during my childhood that left me with low self-esteem and stifling insecurity. Even though my faith in God was strong and I found a new identity in my religion and church, I still felt an emptiness left by my broken family. In college I began to suffer the most. While my friends around me were progressing in their studies and finding new careers, I was stunted by depression and apathy. My grades fell terribly and I spent many nights drinking at the bar instead of doing homework. I was eventually placed on academic probation because my grades and attendance were poor, but even that was not enough motivation for me to succeed.
After a few more months I was expelled from college. I did not know what I was going to do with my future and I felt even more lost than before. Just when I thought I had hit rock bottom, I met a girl who turned my whole life around. Her name was Nicole and she was finishing up nursing school and was a solid student. We began dating and she showed me what independence and responsibility looked like. Through Nicole I found a new purpose and direction in life. I knew I wanted to marry her but I had to get my life back on track.
Nicole found a nursing job and began her brand new career. I began working full-time and quickly became recognized for my hard work. I applied and received a promotion within a few months, instilling in me a new confidence. Nicole and I were engaged soon after and we started planning our future. My faith in God grew even stronger, and Nicole and I wanted to live as His faithful servants. Eventually, I began feeling my past creep into my life and I let my pain and anger control my emotions. Deep down I had a fear that Nicole would abandon me, either over something I did wrong or because she would figure out that she was better than me. Desperate to prove myself wrong, I made myself open up to Nicole and be honest with her. She understood where my fears were coming from and challenged me to fight the negative voices inside. I realized that these internal battles would be something I would fight for a while, but I knew that I could get through it with God.
After Nicole and I married we quickly began having children. Fatherhood became a turning point for me because it brought out issues I had with my father that I did not know existed. I felt my dad let me down by not being a good example of fatherhood and for not preparing me to be a man. I did not possess the necessary coping skills to deal with life stressors that came with having young children, bills, and a career. Instead, I only knew how to lose my temper when something went wrong because that was all I ever learned as a child. I was determined to not be like my father and I sought help. I met with counselors and began taking control of my pain and anger. I learned to communicate my frustrations and fears in a healthy manner, and I learned to turn to Christ when I needed a father figure.
Today, I feel I have come a long way from where I was as a young 20-something adult searching for who I was and where I wanted to go. I am now 34 years old and have a beautiful family. I am a stay-at-home dad and I have the opportunity to be a good father for my four boys (and soon my daughter!). I still have room to grow in my vocation as husband and father, and there are days where I feel like I am a huge failure. This point in my life, however, I can move past my shortcomings and allow God to lead me. I am comfortable in knowing my life’s purpose, which is to serve God and the wonderful family He has given me.
I still do not have a relationship with my father, who chooses to hold grudges and keep me out of his life. My counselor helped me realize that I have to think of my dad as having passed away long ago, and that I have to mourn him. I am still in mourning because there is a part of me that hopes my father and I can work things out and have a good relationship. I think about him every day and pray for him, hoping God will touch his heart and bring him back to me. I have been able to forgive my father for the things he did and those that he failed to do. I am sure he tried to do the best he could with the abilities he had.
So, I hope you have a better understanding about why I call myself The Grumpy Dad. I have overcome a lot of challenges and still have battle wounds that need healing. It’s hard being a man these days, and it’s even harder to be a father and husband. Our world has taken God out of the picture and all chaos has ensued. I feel like manhood is under attack, and when you’re a broken man it is difficult to shield yourself from evil forces. I think I am a pretty good father and husband, but sometimes I have some pretty crappy moments. Luckily I have a family who loves me and understands me, but also challenges me to be better. I also have a God who is all merciful and will never fail me.
Thanks for reading.