The Importance of Touch for Babies and Children

I recently read about a study at Sahlgrenska Academy where Emma Jonsson conducted a study on babies to determine whether or not they reacted to touch. The babies were held by their mothers and experienced brush strokes at two different speeds, one of them at the normal pace we typically use to caress our children and one at a faster pace. The babies also wore an elastic bandage on their heads, which helped to measure blood flow in their brain.

The study found that a slow caress, like we would normally give our children, stimulates more blood flow in our babies’ brains. Think about that for one second: these babies, with an average age of eight weeks, experienced a gentle caress-like touch and it triggered higher blood flow in their brains. Babies are ready to experience caressing, physical affection from almost birth and you can argue that they need it, too, because of how strongly their brains reacted to it.

It got me thinking about my kids (boy/girl twins) after they were born almost 10 weeks premature. They were 3 pounds each and had to spend four weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). My wife and I would visit every day and give them kangaroo care.

If you’re not familiar, kangaroo care is when you take your baby and place her bare chest on your bare chest so that she could physically feel you and the warmth and closeness of you.

I remember doing that regularly, but not having any idea if it really helped. Our babies, obviously, didn’t speak and couldn’t communicate and I was so new to being Daddy that I didn’t know what I was doing. Was this making a difference? Did they even notice us being this close together?

But this research proves the value of us as parents being physically close with our babies and children. It shows our touch makes a difference. It shows our babies need our love and affection from the moment of their birth.

My kids, who were so tiny I could easily hold them both in my arms, are now both taller than I am. Is that because we did kangaroo care when they were babies? Is that because we showed them love and affection consistently?

I don’t know, but this study makes me think kangaroo care and our affection had more of an impact than I could’ve imagined.

Is There Such A Thing As A Perfect Day?

I think in this crazy world we live in, it is hard enough to be able to truly enjoy the great experiences we have. It is even more rare to know, in that great experience, that we are experiencing something special. My family and I had one of those days over the weekend.

There were no cries of boredom. There were no outbursts. In addition we spent almost no money and watched no screens. But we spent most of the day together and it was lovely.

My wife had to work in the morning and Lucas had his NYSSMA evaluation (Dorit had her’s the night before). The both did great, thankfully, and with NYSSMA behind us and the horrible New York standardized tests, I think we all felt a sense of relief that was as palpable as the warm weather we had that day as well.

We played catch outside for a little, they skated on their ripstiks, and we played some more. Then they started drawing with chalk on the driveway (making a beautiful drawing of a woman with long flowing hair). I pulled up a chair and sat and talked with them while they drew and I knew already it was a special day.

“I’m having such a great day with you guys. I love you.” I’m mushy like that if you didn’t already know.

And the look they gave me is one of the greatest feelings I have as a dad. They looked at me like they felt the same way and it meant the world to them that I also felt this way, that being with them could make me feel good. That look is always a strong reminder of the power we have as parents; they don’t realize the impact and effect they have on us but when they do they feel better and empowered. I think it gives them a better sense of value, that they have an effect on us.

Shortly thereafter my wife came home and I handed her the baton so I could go for a bike ride. When I left they were hanging out in the front yard, basking in the day.

When I returned almost two hours later, it looked as if they hadn’t moved. They were playing Scrabble and had done some more drawing and had a little picnic of fruits and cheese under our cherry blossom trees.

The only negative thing about the day was Gem was not feeling well, so she handed the baton back to me and I took the kids to Rita’s for some delicious water ice and we sat and ate and talked, the three of us catching up together. In the car we were listening to Macklemore and Neon Cathedral came on and they wanted to know what the song meant. I tried to explain to them what would make a man want to drink, how life can sometimes be very hard and have a terrible effect on people.

“Do you understand how he feels, Daddy?” one of them asked me.

“I do and I hope you never truly understand this song. Because that would mean you grew up better than I did and that’s what I want for you.”

We continued talking about the song, them asking questions and me answering them the best I could. My kids and I really connect over music and the meaning of songs sometimes brings up great topics for us to discuss, things I might not have thought or would not know how to bring up without music as inspiration.

On the way back, we stopped off at the supermarket, because I had the idea we could make a fire in our fire pit and roast hot dogs and make s’mores. Normally, our kids are not happy or helpful at the supermarket, but that day they were awesome, each holding a basket, grabbing the stuff we needed and carrying them no matter how heavy they got (maybe we should always go to Rita’s before the supermarket?).

Back at home, Gem was feeling a bit better and she joined us at the fire and we had hot dogs and corn and s’mores and marshmallows and listened to more Macklemore and the warmth of the fire could not match the warmth of our love that night.

I love my family and my family loves me. But when we all feel that love for each other together, in everything we do, in everything we say, knowing this time together is the most special of all that we do, there is no better feeling on this planet.

There may not be such a thing as a perfect day, but to me, that was about as close to perfection as I could ever want in my life.

Building A Better Balance

Can I tell you a little secret? I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home Dad (I know, that’s not the secret). But I didn’t really believe I could do it. Yes, I believe men can be stay at home dads and I’m jealous of all of them. I just didn’t think I could hack it, getting our kids up in the morning, getting them ready, making lunch, dropping them off and then picking them up, helping with homework, taking them to activities, getting dinner ready, getting them ready for bed…I always worried that I wouldn’t have the patience for it, like my wife does. I was afraid I would get frustrated when they were too slow or weren’t doing something right, get frustrated and not be able to recover, spending my time with them frustrated and angry.

My wife was recently away on business for a couple of days and it was another chance to really find out what I could actually do, whether or not I could really do it or not, face my own fear.

Fortunately, it went really well and I truly loved the extra time with them.

Unfortunately, it went really well and I truly loved the extra time with them.

I was putting my son to bed last night and he asked if I liked my time being home with them.

“I loved it, Sweetie Boy.”

“Why don’t you quit your job and stay home with us?” he asked with his beautiful face looking up at me.

There’s the dream, right there. My kids are getting older so fast and I know the time they would want to be with me is quickly evaporating and I’ve worked away from home the entire time, missing the opportunity to drop them off and pick them up from school, help with homework, hear what the music teacher has to say, etc.

The fact is I’m not one of those guys whose identity is wrapped up in his job. My identity is actually wrapped up in my family, the best part of my life is my wife and children, and the best me is often when I am with them. I know what I do at work doesn’t really matter in the long run (and maybe even in the short run), but my relationship and involvement with my children hopefully is making a big difference in their present and future, building self esteem and a strong foundation that I didn’t have growing up, that will last them a lifetime.

I think what this really raises for me is creating an even better balance between work and family. I already take every day off from work that they have from school and usually take off when they are sick and have snow days. And I certainly need this job in order to be able to pay our bills, etc. But maybe I need to take more unscheduled time off. Maybe I need to call in sick more so I can take my kids to school once a month and pick them up and help with homework.

The challenge is I feel such pressure to keep my job and be a “good employee.” But the reality is I have never regretted taking time off to be with my family and I need to try and do that more often, before they are too old to be happy I am around.

The Kids Are Away and Conflicting Emotions Are in Play


My Okapis are away (at their grandparents) and it is time for the parents to play.

If only it were that easy.

For my wife, it is very hard for her to be away from our kids. The same kids she gave birth to at the same time. The same kids she spent all day with for the first 4.5 years of their lives. The same kids she has taken to school (or camp) and picked up almost every single day since. She loves our children with every fiber of her being and the downside is when they are not around she feels an ache of missing them.

For me, the guy that has had to work away from home ever since they were born, it is not as hard. I am used to putting my family in a special place and locking it up so it doesn’t make me as sad when I am not with them. I wouldn’t be able to function if I felt the ache of missing them every day. In fact, I get excited, not that they aren’t around, but that I get to have more time with my wife. She was my first real love and everything good in my life started with her. It is so easy to have our husband and wife roles consumed by father and mother roles and it is nice we can get back to us.

Obviously, I love my Okapis, but I really enjoy the time when they are away (and even feel a little guilt writing that down for people to read). The truth is coming home at night is easier and less stressful (no worries over dinner and showers and getting them to bed on time). Getting ready in the morning is ummm…easier and less stressful. Basically, without our kids life is easier and less stressful.

Last night we went out with a good friend and had dinner and drinks at one (kind of crappy) place and then had more drinks and dessert somewhere else (that was much better). Wonderful conversation, good friends, tasty margaritas (at least at the second place) and delicious desserts (fried Oreos!). Then Gem and I came home and we watched another couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica (we just started it over the weekend and are really getting into it). The whole evening was relaxed and lovely.

Then we went to bed and walked past their empty room and even I felt the ache of missing them. They’ve only been gone less than 36 hours, but I’m a jumble of emotions. A sense of freedom. We can do anything we want without worry. Go out to dinner, have drinks, stay out late, go into New York City. ANYTHING! But they’re doing stuff and experiencing things I don’t know about. I am missing more of their lives and that is sad for me. Are they okay? Are they going to sleep without us? How are they feeling?

My Okapis are gone and conflict is in the house. My wife is torn between her ache and her wanting to enjoy the time with me. I am excited about the time with her, the freedom, but feel a guilt about enjoying time without them, as if parents don’t need their own time. As if, when we pick them up this weekend, I won’t be one of the happiest men alive to see them again.

In the meantime, however, I plan to have a lot of fun with my wife and our friends, coming home whenever we want and making as much noise as we want.

Dancing My Heart Out

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I danced my heart out last night. Dancing is like therapy for me, expressing pent up feelings, revealing my true self, being the truest me I know how to be. Last night was our annual holiday party and we spent two hours dancing. But the dancing comes at a cost. A cost that only hit me when I was walking down the steps after getting off the train at 11:00pm last night.

This was the first time I have gone out, on my own – without my wife – in probably about a year. I did play basketball for three nights last spring but that is about it. My wife probably goes out a few times a month. But it’s easier for her to go out. One, she spends much more time with our three-year old twins than I do – she is home with them everyday while I am away at work. Two, after we get them ready for sleep her day is over; I put them to bed every night. It is supposed to be my special time with them, though it can be challenging. So if she isn’t home when they go to bed, it doesn’t really change much for them, but if I don’t come home at night, it changes their routine. It’s bad enough I am away all day, if I don’t come home at night and don’t put them to bed what kind of message does that send them? As a result, I have been coming home every night for months and months and months.

I’m good at seeing my physical health as vital to the health of my children and to my role as a father. If I am physically well, I can better take care of them and am less likely to bring home a bug that would get them sick. I can see that I have to fight the fight against depression which dominated my life for so many years, but has only been a memory for the past seven years or so; if I am depressed then I can’t be the kind of father that I want to be. I can even see that my wife and I need special time together – even if it means leaving our children for a night or two – because our marriage is the core of our family; if our relationship is not well, our entire family suffers. But when it comes to seeing the importance of time for myself, of having fun, of doing the things I love and enjoy, it is a different story. For instance, I have made exercise a priority in my life, but I will not take time away from my children to do it. I have placed my practice as a priority in my life but I see clients at lunchtime and I write on the train so I don’t take time away from my children. I haven’t made having fun, doing things I really enjoy as a priority and thus, they don’t happen. Somehow, I’ve never been able to convince myself that it is ok to miss time with my children to do something fun. I’ve never been able to convince myself that I can place my own pleasure, enjoyment over being the father my children need. Of course, I understand on some level that if I am not a whole person, if I am not taking time for myself to have fun, I won’t really be a good role model for my children. I am so driven to prevent them from dealing with all I dealt with in my childhood that I have swung too far in the other direction.

The thing is, I desperately needed to dance, to release my emotions in a positive, healthy and enjoyable manner, to express myself in public. Being the kind of Dad I want to be has been more challenging, more exhausting and more draining than I ever imagined. I really do need some time for myself, to let go. Yesterday morning I had told my wife that if there wasn’t dancing I would probably be home in time to put them to bed myself. But if there was dancing, I wasn’t coming home until the music stopped. There was and I didn’t.

For some reason, my focus had been all about whether or not I would be home in time to put my children to bed. This is a responsibility and a pleasure I take seriously. I am their Daddy and I get to put them to bed every night – not many fathers are anywhere near as lucky. My wife is incredibly understanding and supportive about my desire to build a strong relationship with each of my children, to spend as much special time with them, to be the primary caretaker for them whenever I can. When I am not able to fulfill this role, to be the kind of father I expect from myself, I feel very badly about it. But in focusing on whether or not I would be able to put them to bed, I forgot about something even more important, the real reason why going out at night is so hard for me.

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I crept out of the house while my entire family was still asleep. I didn’t think much of it because it happens almost everyday now. At 5:00pm, the time I usually go to catch my train to be home in time for dinner, I started getting a little anxious, but pushed it away and went to the party. At 6:30pm, I called my wife to let her know I wouldn’t be home in time to put them to bed. From 7:00 – 9:00pm, I danced and danced and danced. I caught the 10:07 train home. At 11:00pm, I was walking down the stairs after getting off the train going through the same motions I do everyday until I remembered what time it was and then it hit me. I wasn’t going to see my children tonight because they were already asleep. A whole day of not seeing my children and I stopped walking for a moment. Somehow in my worry about whether or not I would be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a father, I lost the fact that my children wouldn’t see their Daddy, and just as bad, I wouldn’t see them. It feels like a high price to pay in some ways and I found myself torn about going out and having fun.

Fortunately, this morning my kids woke up earlier than they have in months and I got to see them. I walked into their room and my son, Lucas, screamed out in excitement, “Daddy!” and Dorit started getting out of bed to give me a hug. I had missed them so much! And they seemed so happy to see me, it felt so good. Maybe my being away doesn’t hurt them or disrupt their routine too much. Maybe it allows us to miss each other, to realize how much we love each other.

Maybe, just maybe, there is room on the dance floor for me after all.

Is This Really the Best It Can Be?

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

My wife, Gem, and I were trying to catch up after long days at work. After school she had taken our kids, eight-year old boy-girl twins, to get some clothes for the Spring (even though it snowed this morning) Concert.

“Dorit had so much fun trying on clothes,” she told me. Our little girl really does enjoy being “on stage” (just like her Daddy) whatever the stage happens to be.

“Imagine what it will be like in a few years,” I responded, thinking of my wife and teenage daughter going clothes shopping together, trying them on for each other, and cleaning out the store.

“No, this is the best it is going to be.”

“What do you mean?” I asked in shock. How could this be the best it could ever be for my Sweetie Girl?

“She’s not looking at her body. She’s not staring at the things she doesn’t like about herself, any imperfections she may see. She’s just enjoying playing dress up.”

“Oh God…” And I felt such sadness. My little girl is…I don’t know how to explain it.

She’s not perfect and, in fact, sometimes she makes me insane, seriously out of my mind crazy with the way she can so easily ignore me or blatantly lie (or as my wife likes to say “reframe the truth”) right to my face.
But God I love that girl with every fiber of my being. I love the way her smile lights up her face and reminds me she gets her beauty from her mother. I love how witty and smart she is and how she is the most emotionally intelligent girl I’ve ever met. I love how much fun she can be and the look she gets when she is focused and committed to doing something she has never done before.

And while it terrifies me, I love the way she looks at me as if all the love in the world begins in my face. I am her first love and I take that honor quite seriously.

I tell her every day how beautiful she is and how much I love her. I don’t just tell her when she is dressed up. I tell her when she is in her PJs and especially when she is naked getting ready for or just coming out of her shower. I hug and kiss her and tell her I love her every day before I leave for work, when I return home and when she goes to bed (please don’t worry, I do the same for my boy…promise).

In fact, I have read the research that shows that girls with involved fathers, girls who feel their fathers are invested in their relationship can actually begin menstruating older, start having sex later and are at a lower risk for teen pregnancies. Girls with involved fathers are also less likely to have eating disorders, to have low self-esteem and to actually be happier as adults.

I ask my little girl frequently if she knows how much I love her because the research is clear; she has to feel my love, my commitment to her for these benefits to come into play. If she doesn’t know how I feel, what I feel doesn’t matter very much.

But maybe I’ve been deluding myself, thinking I could somehow stop single-handedly what happens to so many young girls in America. Maybe I can not love her enough to prevent her from seeing herself as not good enough. Maybe society’s message of the unattainable model perfection is too powerful, maybe my little girl can’t escape that unscathed.

But I know I have a power of my own. The way she looks at me as if the sun and moon rise because of me is one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. How easy it would be to abuse that power, to hurt my little girl, and I am sure I have hurt her unintentionally. But as long as I am her Daddy, I vow to use my powers for good, to give her unconditional love that, if it can’t stop the inevitable, can maybe mitigate enough to lessen its impact.

And even if that doesn’t work, she will always have a hug and kiss waiting for her because she’s my Sweetie Girl. Society can’t take that away from us.

Loving Him At School

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I had the privilege of taking my kids, eight-year old boy-girl twins, to school the other day. It’s funny because I do it enough that I know what to do, but not enough that I have gotten good at it. It takes me 15 minutes to get their lunch ready though I know my wife can do it in less than five. I worry so much about getting to school on time because I don’t remember how long each “step” takes for my kids to do. Getting dressed is how long? Eating breakfast? Brushing teeth and hair? I never remember so it ends up being a bit stressful.

But the walk there is usually quite nice because I already know how long that takes and it always feels like special time, the three of us (Los Tres Amigos), being together. Often one or both of them will hold my hand. When it is cold we do this thing we started at the zoo a couple of years ago. A perfect example of how something so little and seemingly meaningless, can have such weight in their lives.

The zoo was very cold the day we went and my kids’ hands were cold. I am a short guy, always have been, and the sleeves of my jackets are always a bit too long. I offered to let my kids put their hands in my sleeves so we could hold hands without them getting too cold. Now, every time it is cold out and we’re walking together, they ask if they can do it again.

We got to school and we stopped and they each gave me a hug and a kiss and I told them I love them and I watched them run into the school with their friends.

But then my son, Lucas, turned around and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too,” I replied and immediately wondered how much longer he’ll be okay with me telling him I love him outside school with his friends around him.

For however long he lets me do it, I am happy to do so.

Our Ten Days of Decadence

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I am relieved to announce that our Ten Days of Decadence, oh so similar to the Twelve Days of Christmas, is finally over. Our Okapis (twin four-year olds) are completely spoiled now and we have 50 weeks to deprive them until next year.

Our Ten Days of Decadence (TDoD – kind of like the sound of my head hitting the wall over and over again) started Friday, December 15th and ended Monday, December 25th.

My family is Jewish and we celebrate Chanukah, which started Friday the 15th. In celebration of Chanukah we get our children small gifts for each of the nights. To give you a glimpse into how decadent the TDoD was, we didn’t even have a chance to give them most of the gifts we bought because they had received so many! Let’s see, they got Chanukah gifts from their grandparents, two sets of great grandparents and from their aunt, my sister, visiting from California. They got so many Chanukah gifts from family that we didn’t really need to buy them anything at all. We just only seem to remember that AFTER we buy them new gifts. Next year, nothing, I tell you. We’re buying them nothing!

But, in case you’re thinking, so what’s the big deal with that? Eight nights of presents, sure that sounds wonderful, but not all that decadent. Was there anything else?

Why yes, yes there was, thank you for asking. See, while the 15th was the first night of Chanukah, the 16th was their birthday party. Yes, their birthday is on the 17th. Since they were turning four years old (can someone please explain to me how that happened?), we decided to do things slightly differently this year – we held a party at our local recreation center for our Okapis to play in the gym with their friends and have pizza and ice cream cake. Their take from that party, the number of birthday presents they received was overwhelming to me, to everyone who saw them. We had about fifteen kids attend, with each one buying one gift for each of our Okapis (15 X 2 = 30 for those struggling with the math at home). That doesn’t include ALL of the presents from our friends and family who often give them more than just one gift. And they have a lot of family; grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, and aunts – they barely all fit into our house! With all of the presents some people had to stand outside. The cops came by to see if we had a license to run a club out of our house, there were so many people. Next year, I think we might hire some bouncers to handle all of the traffic.

Afterwards, we did what we normally do, we invited some of our close friends and family over to continue our birthday celebrations. Why do we need two birthday parties for our Okapis? Well, the first party was just for them to have fun with their friends and enjoy being the center of attention that you often only get to be on your birthday when you are a kid. The reason we continued the party at our house is because not only is it Chanukah, not only is it their birthdays, but it is also my wife’s birthday (the 18th).

And my birthday (the 22nd).

That’s right. All four of our birthdays and Chanukah fell in the same week this year. At the party at our house, we had four birthday cakes, one for each of us, of course. Everybody sang Happy Birthday to all of us and everyone, as they do every year, has no idea what to say when it comes time to use our names. “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday Dear …” Some just use our last name, some try to fit all of our names into the tiny space, some just have fun and mumble nonsensical things since no one will know anyway. It is quite hysterical and I hope we never figure out a specific way to handle that, frankly.

Of course, after the birthday party, there were still several nights of Chanukah left – not too mention ALL OF THE FOOD!! We had leftover ice cream cakes (2), cookies, the other birthday cakes and so much other food. There was so much dessert I was barely making a dent in it all – and that’s not a problem I usually have, I got to tell you.

During Chanukah, we only had one night with just ourselves. Every other night, we either had family or friends over or we went to grandparents or great grandparents houses, with always so much food to eat and more presents to be had. This year, Chanukah ended on my birthday (Friday the 22nd), which we celebrated at my wife’s parent’s house with more cake and more presents for everyone. At one point during that Friday night my wife turned to me and said, “Thank goodness the presents are over for a year.”

“Uhm…Monday.”

Did I mention my wife’s family celebrates Christmas?

“Oh right! Monday is Christmas.” Which, of course, meant more presents! I actually had done the same thing a bit earlier, thankful it was all over and then remembering about Christmas with a slap to my forehead.

So this year Christmas ended the Ten Days of Decadence with a bang. More presents, more candy, more chocolate and not a nutritious meal to be had.

Now that it is all over. Now that there are no more parties, no more family events, no more chocolate, no more presents, I am looking forward to the next 50 weeks where we can remind our Okapis once again not to expect presents with every meal, not to expect candles every night or birthday cake or anything good for that matter for another 355 days.

How long do you think that will last? A week? Maybe ten days?

Jealousy at My Children’s Laughter

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

As I was leaving the house this morning, I heard one thing above all else; the sound of my 6.5 year old children’s laughter. And I felt one thing in response.

Jealousy.

Here I was walking out the door to go to work and my wife and children are cuddling and laughing upstairs without me. It left me with a knot in my stomach.

What about me? A little voice in my head wondered. What about me?

The ironic aspect of all of this is that I was drained, utterly and completely wiped out (and probably why that little voice sounded louder than it normally would). I had spent much of my Labor Day weekend taking care of my little boy who was terribly ill with what turned out to be a nasty stomach virus. But first we had a scare that it was appendicitis, him writhing in pain with a fever, doubled over crying his little heart out.

I took him to the emergency room on Sunday and we spent four hours waiting between various tests and x-rays to find out that they just weren’t sure, but suspected it wasn’t appendicitis. As you parents know, the challenge of being in that situation is you want to be connected enough to your emotions to be there for your child, to be what he needs you to be, but you also need to be disconnected enough to not get scared and anxious yourself because he will feel that and feel the same way. It is a difficult balance and one that takes quite a bit out of me. Making sure he understood each test that was going to happen without getting him anxious about it. Making sure he had something to do (or a hand to squeeze) when the pain was bad or when he was scared. Trying to help him learn how hospitals and all of the tests work so the experience – and hospitals in general – wouldn’t be scary. For instance, the one thing he kept telling people about that day was that he got his first x-ray! He was real proud of that.

Keeping the balance in check was difficult because there were times when I just looked at him and felt the tears welling up. I was so proud of how he was handling the doctors and nurses, all of the different tests, everything, that every time I tried to tell him how proud I was I started to tear up and had to try to hold my emotions in check so as not to freak him out. My job was to keep him calm – not to get him agitated and overwhelmed.

And maybe that’s why the sound of their laughter felt more painful than joyful. I had just spent three days taking care of my boy at his worst, screaming in pain, doubled over and upset, frustrated and whiny, but my wife got him at his best, laughing and adorable.

I wanted some of that, too. Hopefully, when I get home I will have that chance.

Do They Love Me?

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

You know that line from Fiddler on the Roof when he asks her after being married for 25 years??? “Do you love me?” They had an arranged marriage, but have been together so long they have grown to love each other. He knows it. She knows it. But he wants confirmation, he wants to put it on the table so to speak.

Lately, after 7.5 years in my life, I’ve been asking my twins if they love me, but for all of the wrong reasons and it is not working out so well for me…or them.

My kids do the same thing every night – or at least they are supposed to; eat dinner, take a shower, brush their teeth, put their clothes in the laundry, etc. And every single night they fight us on that – especially me it feels like. Inevitably, they start getting upset and crying and inevitably I get frustrated and start yelling, becoming the man and father I least want to be and most despise in myself.

I’ve been wondering why I am losing my patience so much. Certainly work is stressful, though much less so than it has been in the past year. I am not sleeping as much because I am waking up earlier to go bike riding, but shouldn’t exercising make me feel better? And our life is stressful, but no more so than it has been in the past several years. Basically, I don’t think I have a good excuse for behaving this way.

Except that I’m not really feeling like my children love me. My wife’s sister is staying with us and all of a sudden I feel like I’m ranked third or even fourth (sometimes they would rather be with themselves than with me) in my own house with my kids. Before I know it, they start acting out and I start getting so angry.

Even on the nights when I come home from work determined not to yell at them, something always seems to happen. It makes me feel so helpless, so hopeless, and I become so hateful of myself. Aren’t I a better man than this? I had always thought so.

Fundamentally, I think the problem is I don’t seem to feel loved by my on children. Maybe it is because my wife’s sister gets so much more attention and they would rather be with her than with me. Maybe it has a lot to do with my own childhood and not feeing loved there and it carrying over to my present – especially when you factor in Mother’s Day, one of the hardest days of the year for me because my own mother hasn’t talked to me in decades I can see how I would feel not loved and that when they pay less attention to me, it makes me feel less loved.

To make matters worse, when they behave badly it is confirmation to me that they don’t love me, that they don’t care about me. If they loved me, they would be behave better. If I loved them, I wouldn’t yell at them they way I do. It is becoming a vicious cycle with neither of us winning. If someone yelled at me frequently, I wouldn’t want to be with them either.