There are times when I am looking after the boys when I feel completely unlike myself, or at least the person I think I am. There are times when I am frustrated, when I have lost control of situations and when I just want to scream (so usually that comes out as a shout). This happens the most when I am tired, and the boys are tired; but have not got round to admitting it yet. Or when I have an agenda that they just do not want to buy into: at school before the bell, at the station in time to catch the train, eating the healthy bits.
There are times when I just do not know what to say or do for the best, whether allowing them to have another sweet, watch another TV programme or play for another ten minutes is the right or the wrong thing to do and I agonise about it.
When I write these down they seem to be relatively minor things, but at the time they do not. In the heat of the moment when they are both asking me different things at the same time over and over again it is very hard to retain my equilibrium. It is hard to be myself.
It seems that there is not a day that goes by when I do not feel challenged, and often over challenged, by my children. This is because they are constantly testing boundaries, including the boundaries of my comfort zone. They are constantly wanting new things and will take as much as I can give every day. I do not say this to complain or to blame them since they are doing these things to learn how to make sense of themselves and the world, but that does not really make it any easier.
What I also know is that they do not test others in the same way that they test Karen and me. Children seem to save their most challenging behaviour for their parents, and that it what makes family life so interesting and challenging.
Last week I wrote about how we can seem to be heroes to our children, but perhaps not feeling like one ourselves. Reading back on that post I realised just how apologetic I sounded about even the thought of being a hero, and a number of people picked up on this and encouraged me not to be quite so modest about my role as a Dad in this way.
I think that some would also argue that the very act of being a parent, with the many challenges that this brings, is somehow heroic and, as I said in the last post, this is certainly how I now feel towards my parents now that I am a parent myself.
I think that people become heroes to others (and I do not think you can become a hero to yourself) when they do things that are outside of their comfort zone, consistently and selflessly while at the same time retaining some sort of balance and equanimity. That is in essence what I strive for as a parent. So what if it does not always pan, I am trying.
So whether I am a hero or not is not for me to say, or for my boys to realise for many years yet. What I can say is that when I look at other parents with their own struggles, their own conflicts and finding themselves outside their own comfort zones. I see heroes. Heroes that are never celebrated. Heroes that never even receive acknowledgement. But heroes all the same.
No more heroes anymore? Certainly not. They are all around us.