I’ve been frustrated lately over my inability to balance how I express emotions. Forget balance — I suck at emotion, period.
With my kids I get too emotional at times, showering them with kisses and telling them I love them a lot more than they probably care to hear. Duncan’s refrain is usually, “I know already, Dad!”
With my wife I’m not emotional enough. When times get difficult — and even when they’re going well — I tend to clam up. I share my feelings in headline form or I don’t share at all. That’s pretty whacked considering all the opening up I do here.
I’ve been trying to solve this puzzle for years, but I’m no closer than where I started.
Sometimes I get really angry with my parents for this.
My mother was the smothering type. She wanted me close by at all times when I was a kid, and would get in my personal zone at the wrong times, hugging me when I wanted to be left alone. I don’t entirely blame her for this. She lost another child, and she was clinging to what she had left with everything she had. The effect was suffocating, and I ultimately rebelled.
My father, on the other hand, had no clue about expressing his feelings. Whenever I hit a milestone (in adulthood the milestones were promotions and raises at work), his response was always a detached, “That’s it?” If I expressed fatigue over life’s difficulties, the response — instead of relating his experiences and how he pulled through the tough stuff — was always, “It’s good for you.” My paternal grandmother was the same way. As the tired old saying says: The apple never falls far from the tree.
In the area of emotional balance, you could say I lacked role models — which is why I want to punch the walls a lot lately. I’m in my 40s and need to figure these things out with no prior experience. I think my trouble expressing emotions is why I started writing this blog. I can write my feelings and share just fine. But in face-to-face conversation, I flounder.
Some people would dismiss this as unimportant. No one is perfect at this, after all. Like everything else, this is life.
But I’m really starting to worry about doing to my wife what my parents did to each other. I’m worried that I’ll do to my kids what my parents did to me — ensuring that they grow up to start another generation of dysfunction.
But here’s the thing: I’m a grown man on the fast track to middle age. Too much time has passed since I left home for me to keep blaming everything on my parents. They did the best they could with the tools they had, but fucked up a lot. All parents do.
I’m a big boy now. It’s time to take ownership.