On Apologizing To Your Child

On Thursday morning, I inexplicably, irrationally, and ultimately, cruelly, lost my temper at my four-year old daughter; I wanted her to do X; she did not; I thought my request was reasonable; she didn’t think it was; and then, when on my demanding reasons for her decision and denial of my request, she could not comply, I snapped. I stormed off, fuming; she was left in tears. Even as I did so, I knew I had fucked up, and spectacularly. And yet, perversely, my irritation and frustration–which was really what my anger amounted to–continued to cloud my mind for a minute or two. As those feelings receded, I walked back into my daughter’s bedroom, picked her up, gave her a hug, and asked her if she was hungry and wanted breakfast. She perked up, and said she did. A second or so later, as I carried her into the kitchen, she said she was ‘sorry’; I said I was too; and we hugged again. A minute or so later, she was smiling and happy. (Her mood improved even more when I told her I would get her a ‘pizza treat’ later that evening.) An hour later, she had left for preschool, and I headed to midtown Manhattan to get some work done at the CUNY Graduate Center library.

But all was not well; I was beset with a series of nagging thoughts all day. My daughter hadn’t done anything wrong; she had said ‘sorry’ because she knew a parent was angry at her, and that’s what you do when your parental figure is upset with you. I had been in the wrong all along; once my initial request had been denied, I should have backed off. Instead–like a petulant child–I had insisted, and then later, browbeaten her with a series of badgering demands for clarification of her reasons, all the while intimidating her with my tone of voice and body language. My daughter had never needed to apologize; she should have demanded one from me. I was the offender here; my perfunctory apology and ‘make-up’ in the morning was not enough.

That evening, I picked her up from pre-school, bought some pizza, and we returned home to eat and watch–as promised–a couple of short videos on lions and tigers in the wild. As we ate, I offered a more elaborate apology: I said I should have listened to her and respected her wishes, that she had been right, and I had been wrong. She listened rather solemnly–or about as solemnly as four-year olds can–and on my asking if she understood what I was trying to say, nodded her head. We then went back to watching big cats do what they do best.

I knew there would be times when I would have to apologize to my child; error-free parenting is impossible. I’ve done so before, but I don’t think I’ve ever quite made my admission of wrong-doing quite as explicit as it was on this occasion. Truth be told, it was a curiously uplifting experience.

Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble: Weightlifting And Humility

Lifting weights requires humility. Two weeks ago, a couple of days before I began a week-long vacation with my family–a road-trip to Cincinnati to visit my in-laws, that is, my daughter’s grandparents–I squatted 255lbs for three sets of six repetitions. (The sixth rep in there aims to add a little volume to my training.) I finished my sets satisfactorily; they were heavy and tiring, but still manageable. I looked forward to adding five pounds to my barbell for my next lifting session. Because I was going on vacation, I planned to visit a gym in Cincinnati and do my next squatting workout there.

But vacations can disrupt the most well-laid of plans. Once ensconced in Cincinnati, I sought the couch everyday, and proceeded to stuff myself with sundry goodies on a day-long basis. (These goodies included desserts of many stripes.) I did not run, lift weights, or do a single push-up, pull-up, or sit-up for those seven glorious sedentary days.

This indulgence left its mark. I returned from vacation an indeterminate number of pounds heavier, feeling bloated and sluggish and stiff. I dreaded the return to the gym. And for good reason: last Wednesday, my front-squat warm-ups felt ponderous and painfully heavy. I had squatted 225lbs at 3×3 before I left, but there was no way I could hit 230 now. I settled for a single at 215lbs and then squatted 185 lbs for nine reps. On a good day i.e., with no interruptions after my last lifting session, I could easily have easily squatted this for 15, but now, I walked the weight back in. I was humbled.

Then, today, I returned to the back squat. I would have been scheduled to lift 260x6x3 if I had continued after my last workout but I had to reconsider given my two-week break. I settled for trying 255x5x3. The weight would be the same as the last attempted load, and the reps would be just a little less. There would be no moving onward and upward for now, just an attempt to hold on.

I warmed up as usual: 45×5, 135×5, 185×3, 225×1 and finished the first set at a slow grind. Every rep felt heavy; my knees did not stay out entirely. Unsurprisingly. In the second set, I forgot to check the barbell before I began my lift, and paid for this lack of attention. One side was loaded with an extra twenty-five pound plate. As I stepped out of the rack, the imbalanced load pulled me off-kilter. My re-rack attempts were comically inept, and I needed some help from my spotters. When I stepped out again with the correct weight, my mind was still awhirl and distracted. The reps felt heavier; the struggle under an incorrectly loaded bar had taken a lot out of me physically and mentally. Reps three and four were a real struggle, and suddenly, I was not sure I would finish the fifth rep.

So I walked the weight back in to the rack. It was an admission of defeat, a surrender of sorts; I did not fight it out on the fifth rep. But I did not want to bail the barbell on the fifth rep either. I hate bailing on squats; a failed squat stays in my head for weeks. I would rather pack up a set early than take a chance on an awkward bail–especially when I could already sense I was distracted and still processing a less than ideal set-up for lifting heavy. So that was that.

But I still wanted to do the third set. All five reps of it. Which I did. And which worked as a nice confirmation that I wasn’t completely wrecked as a lifter.

So two nice lessons for the day: one, a modest return to resuming lifting is a good idea–not only do you need to get the body firing again, you need to get your mind used to heavy weights; two, during training, don’t bail unless you absolutely have to; it’s perfectly all right to live to fight another day.

Perhaps next week, I’ll feel like I did two weeks ago. Two steps forward, one step back, and all that other good stuff.