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Family

The Daddy Bear: How my toddler is teaching me to be more patient

Part of being a good dad is realising you will never be perfect.

By Sam Loy of Human/Ordinary.
Ever since we had kids, our house has been full of bears.
There's Paddington, the bear from We're Going On A Bear Hunt, and a lurid pink teddy that our four-year-old daughter naturally calls "Red". Then there's every bear that ever there was gathering for the teddy bears picnic.
But of all the bears that live in our house, none are more dominant or realistic than The Daddy Bear.
The Daddy Bear has become a character in our house, giving chase to our daughter and devouring anything in its path. I've lost countless limbs trying to fend off the savages, and my daughter gleefully becomes an ursine hors d'eovre as she puts up half-hearted cries for help.
And while all this is cute and endearing, and probably relatable to anyone reading with an imaginative four-year-old, the real reason I wanted to share the story was because of my beliefs of what The Daddy Bear really means.
For me, I fear she's seen her own daddy behave like a bear.
It's no real secret to anyone that has known me for a significant amount of time that I am prone to angry outbursts. In high school I was given the nickname "Hurricane" on account of my forceful and sometimes destructive temper. And while I have never hit or hurt anyone in my life, there is no doubting that my anger can be fierce and scary.
Unintentionally, my daughter has seen this.
"It would be my biggest failure if my daughter sees me as a threat, whether real or imagined." Supplied
Most of the time she is witness to me yelling at other drivers or at my football team on the TV. But sometimes - moments of great shame for me - I get so frustrated at something she's done, feel so completely inept at being a parent and having no idea what to do, that I've looked into her eyes and growled with frustration. It's never physical, but it's still scary. It's Daddy Bear.
It would be my biggest failure if my daughter sees me as a threat, whether real or imagined. The last thing I want to be is The Daddy Bear, but I worry constantly that the bear has taken over my humanity. That I'm more bear than Daddy, that whatever part of me is The Daddy Bear is too ingrained, too much a part of who I am. I'm nearly 40 and I've been getting angry for a long time.
WATCH: This toddler just wants his mum to know he loves her. Continues after video ...
But my relationship with my kids depends on finding better ways of expressing my frustrations. There's nothing particularly wrong with getting angry - it's a normal emotion and can help target our energies and achieve positive results. Except when it becomes an outburst directed at others, especially when those others are the most important people in your world.
Part of being a good dad is realising you will never be perfect. Your kids bring this out in you, which in turn makes you examine what you're doing wrong. It's hard, you feel the pressure to be a good role model and teach them about the world. But while your children lean on you for guidance, little did you realise, they will teach you about life, more than anyone else could. They inspire you to change and be better.
I'm sitting on the couch, thinking all this, when my daughter comes up to me, tells me that she loves me and quietly whispers that we need to run away from The Daddy Bear, that if we don't move now, we're going to get eaten.
And so we run into her bedroom, crawl awkwardly under her bed, and hide from the danger together.
I wanted to share this story, because I think it's something all parents can relate to. And I hope that by sharing it, others can maybe look at their own Daddy Bear (or Mummy Bear) and help it make them a more patient, and less angry, person.
Sam Loy is an independent podcast producer from Melbourne. By day, Sam is a youth worker and a dad, but at night, he is locked in his study creating narrative non-fiction that looks at our culture, our relationships, and all the things that make us human.

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