• Parenting from Pop's POV

Hold the Picture Until the Dad Hand is Strong

A strong Dad Hand can smooth out some real wrinkles. The closed children’s museum, the uncooperative remote control car, the vaccination needle are all at the mercy of a strong Dad Hand.

The arsenic hours, however, the vicious stretch of time  from 4 to 6 pm, offer incredible resistance. Preparation, a key torquing mechanism of the Dad Hand, is often not enough. I was reminded of this last night as I worked to finish dinner, a meal I had begun during the clean-up of breakfast. All I had to do was finish the rice, steam a side of broccoli and set the table.

Yet in these hateful hours, a mean hunger overtakes otherwise lovely children. Otis (4), for reasons unclear, put a squeeze on his brother’s arm like he thought chocolate might come out the fingers. After the howling ceased, Luke (20 mo) could not be put off trying to ride our aging dog like a horse, ignoring the growls from both man and beast. The rice went from “almost there” to “stuck to the bottom of the pan” in what seemed like seconds, and that was it. Suddenly the handling was no longer gentle, the time-out voice a little too severe. My Dad Hand, so strong five minutes ago, had been rendered useless.

There are many strategies on recovering the strength of the Dad Hand, and the one I’ve found most useful is the one they taught me at the Waldorf school both our boys attend. “Hold the picture,” they told me. I do, and it works.

The idea is to hold in your mind the picture of what you want the situation to be, even when it’s not. So as my boys are tearing each other apart and I’m seeing shades of red I didn’t know existed, I take a brief moment to create in my mind what I want the scene to look like: calm, organized, directed. Being in that imaginary kitchen relieves some of the pressure, and now I can be the one to lead the way there.

I’ve also heard “Hold The Picture” refer to a specific image that’s meant to be useful for dealings with toddlers and teenagers. It’s of a rock in a river. The rock remains still and certain while the rushing water flows over and around it. The eye of a hurricane is another image they use – still and calm amid surrounding chaos.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember and all I can do is mumble “Hold the picture” to myself. Scenes of domestic peace flash through my brain like lightning, registering just enough to make my Dad Hand start to tingle.

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