When I was in high school computers were becoming ubiquitous. Libraries, schools, and homes all began having them and I was just young enough and just savy enough to be seen as some sort of computer wizard. As such a wizard I needed to help a great many plebs with their computer trouble. The trouble was that I didn’t really know much. I knew the acronyms and what they stood for; RAM, CPU, MB, GB, but how they interrelate I hadn’t much of a clue. If I was tasked to make clothes instead of fixing computers I would be cutting out sleeves of different length, using fabrics that didn’t match and sewing with all the wrong stitches. But I fixed a lot of computers.
The secret to fixing them was figuring out how to reset something. Most often this meant holding the power button until it shut down, waiting a minute, then turning the device back on. I still don’t know exactly how this works. My guess is that some bit of code got stuck and a reset stops it. The beautiful thing was that this worked for nearly any program for nearly any problem at nearly any moment. It was like duck tape for fixing computers. I felt like someone cheating the system because I was solving problems without actually knowing how. What I didn’t know was how helpful this would be when it came to being an adult.
As an adult people expect you to be right. It’s really hard to say ‘I was wrong’ as an adult because there is an expectation that now we know things. It’s even worse when you begin to lose your head as a parent. You and I? We are supposed to be the mature ones but when little Johnny begins coloring the walls or making holes in things we lose our shit. We yell and screech like they’ve failed to push the button in the television show Lost. We get so angry at our kids and the anger builds.
My daughters and I were building a block tower one day when I was letting the anger build and I realized the tower was a great metaphor for how I was feeling. I was letting blocks of anger stack up and when they fell down it was going to be epic. Then I realized the power of a reset.
We all reset at night. We go to bed stressed or worried, knowing that a good nights sleep will probably help things out and that we can deal with it in the morning. Our credit card balances reset at the end of the month, our miles to an oil change resets after our car is serviced, our hair length is reset after a haircut. Resets are arbitrary, we can do it whenever we want.
As I continued building the block tower I decided to just reset. I took a few deep breathes and thought about how much I loved my kids. That they made me happy and I couldn’t imagine a world where they didn’t exist. I reset. I was happy.
I also did this with my wife, which for some reason was much harder. It felt like I was giving up in a cold shoulder standoff or admitting I was wrong. Then I realized that I shouldn’t care. There are no winners in fights, no scorecard for who’s right more often and I needed to reset. I was being a jerk.
This is a major problem for parents. The next time you’re around them you’ll see parents pulling arms and lobbing empty threats about no candy for the rest of their lives or grounding them for a week. It’s not inconsistent to reset, it’s helpful. We shouldn’t let our negative emotions dictate how we feel. We shouldn’t let our days, hours, moments be ruined because of our foul mood. That’s the beautiful part, we can just push the button.
For all the time I spent fixing computers this way there was never a problem. Computers always turned back on and began to work properly. Without knowing what to do I was somehow doing it. It’s the same with kids. We don’t always know what to do but we do know how we feel and negative pressure builds. Anger, frustration, regret, rage, apathy, disregard. Get rid of them. View them as some bad computer code that erroneously ran and got you to a place it wasn’t supposed to. From the first moment you see your kids you know the feeling of love, reset to get back to that.