DADDY DIARIES: How does a parent recover when he overreacts?

Tuesday November 12 2019

He must have been shocked because instead of running away like he does when he is aware he has messed, he just stood there dumbfounded, bottles still in his hands. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH


It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. And no, it’s not about the tight economy. Neither is it the struggles of a long-distance marriage.

It’s my son who’s snoring the night away in a blue crib in a corner of my bedroom. He slept crying, heavy painful tears that flowed like dam water under a power-generating turbine.

It started around 8pm when I happened to be on a long client call that left him bored and adventurous. Whoever said an idle mind is the devil’s workshop must have been one tired parent, like myself.

In a bid to keep himself busy, his creative mind led him to the shoe rack on which sat our white sneakers, official shoes as well as bottles of black and brown suede cleaner. With the bottle of black suede in one hand, he dashed to where I sat and asked if that ‘paint’ is used for applying on shoes, to which I answered in the affirmative without thinking through his question.

Turns out he had figured that in his father’s house were litres of ‘paint’ that could make some good art for him. Black on black hardly shows, so the most visible result for his creativity could only come from a contrasting colour; our white sneakers.

I stood up from my seat soon as I hung up and went to follow up on why he had been too quiet for my liking.


On the tiles next to the shoe rack were black and brown spatters as you would expect from any workstation manned by a minor.

He was holding both suede bottles, probably mixing the two colours to come up with a third. The corridor sink was no different, suede spills dotted every curve of that white ceramic.


I was so livid I roared at him to wash his little stained hands and get out of my way. He must have been shocked because instead of running away like he does when he is aware he has messed, he just stood there dumbfounded, bottles still in his hands.

I slapped his wrist and repeated my instructions, that is when he mumbled his apologies and rushed to clean up. He was saying “I’m sorry dad” repeatedly, tears rolling down his eyes, yet the more he apologised, the more I scolded him.

The results of a less than five-minute job were shocking; suede was poured out of those shoes like water from a tap, quantities more than I thought the bottles had. He would cry himself to sleep, and that began my journey of mopping, wiping and soaking the stained shoes.

In my quiet moments of anger, I remembered I pay so much to his school for Art Club, and part of what they do every Thursday is paint, so he was kind of justified to get creative with what he thought was paint.

Secondly, and this is what hurt me the most; he had actually come to confirm with me that the black paint is usually applied on shoes, and I said yes.

The third bit was that I had let myself get too engrossed in the call that I created a loophole for him to explore.

Stories exist of children who slipped away from the parent and in those split seconds drowned, got knocked down by a vehicle or went missing for good. It could have been worse, all because of a phone call.

I struggled to find the thin line between overreacting and allowing him to push his creativity to new levels, but then he was too asleep for us to reason together. I could not forgive myself for saying yes to shoo him off my phone call without thinking through what I was giving a go ahead to, and many parents will attest to having done this at some point in time.

I could not read what was on the little man’s mind as he dozed off amid tears; but most probably he was still trying to wrap his mind around how dad said paint was for shoes the next minute he was screaming at him for doing exactly that.

Confusion galore, huh?

I am still trying to decide on whether to bring up the topic in the morning so that we talk it out and find closure or just let it slide hoping he will have forgotten it at daybreak.

Those with children, young and old, will tell you that nothing hurts a parent more than realising, albeit late, that although your child may have messed (even apologised countless times), you overreacted and went overboard with the punishment or correction. It is the worst feeling ever.


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