A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 37 - Looking at Fatherhood

As the old saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. Oh, to know then what we know now… how dangerous would we all be?

So it’s Father’s Day time and it seems appropriate to reflect.

If I look back at my own fractured childhood relationship with MY Dad, it was clear that we both fought for dominance of the relationship starting at a very early age. Heck, Dad and I fought about everything most of our lives! Conflict happens in the best of families…and mine was no exception.

An understanding of that only came after my Mom passed and Dad and I had to finally learn to understand and deal with each other. Despite our strained and sometimes violent history, my Dad's final years were some of the most precious memories I have of him. From that, I am humbled and reflective and many times I am completely overwhelmed by my own role as a Father.

It's a tough job being a Dad and I’m sure my kids would say I could have done a lot better at it than I have. I acknowledge that. It is what it is. There’s nothing I can do to erase the issues of the past and I’m cognizant of those influences of my own past that clearly set the path and pattern for me as a parent. We have a blended family, and anyone else who has one knows that there are particular challenges and issues that come up with that. They’ve been an issue with every Dad and Step-Dad I’ve ever talked to about it. And I’ve talked to a lot, including counselors at one or two points in my life. Power and identity struggles ensue & guilt and isolation happens. But there are also wonderful moments of joy and discovery and love that I hold dear.

But I digress.

Here’s the thing;

What they don't tell you in all those "What to expect as a parent books", is that having kids is really, REALLY hard. In fact, early on, it’s physically hard. They're heavy!

As newborns you're carrying them around all day just so you can be woken up all night. You're lifting them out of danger when they get a little older, in and out of car seats, cleaning up sticky messes….. And, when you get past that and the school sports and the lego building and the slumber parties and the dances you drive them to...and all of that "stuff" that is LIFE… there's STILL a mentally exhausting component to it with the daily challenges as they learn and grow and begin to challenge YOU. They’re still heavy, it’s just a different kind of weight. In many ways, it’s even heavier.

You worry ALL the time. You really do. That NEVER goes away. But you can’t always let that show, can you? They don't tell you that in the books either.

They grow up too fast. Or maybe it's not that they grow up so fast so much as they just "slip away" from you. When they were younger, there were always moments to talk when we were driving them to school or picking them up. There was a stream of friends that came and went through the house, so I could see how their social skills were developing...or not developing (which caused a whole other type of conversation). There were moments around the table and "Family meetings" that gave rise to discussions about feelings and pride and accomplishments. The infraction system (absolutely necessary with 4 teenagers in the house at the same time)... dating, sex talks, all of it.

Then, it just, changes... seemingly, overnight.

They get themselves dressed. They make their own lunches. They started driving. They dated. They fell in love. They got married. They had kids of their own.

Where did they go? Where did I go? What happened? I often just sit and try and recall how it all changed so fast!

With all due respect to Mothers, which I think are amazing people that do miraculous things daily, I think there’s a somewhat awkward and quiet sadness to being a Father. Mom's can't really see it, because they’re superhuman and busy keeping the family on track, but it's there. You Dad’s know what I’m talking about. It's a frustrating attempt to hold on to a rope in a tug of war that we have absolutely NO chance of winning.

And it scares us. It scares us a lot. Of course, being the Dad, we pretty much have to keep it to ourselves. We see children and grandchildren race through our home and lives and hearts so fast that they’re gone before we realize they're even there!

You see the look in a Father's eyes at family gatherings sometimes. There we sit in our recliners or over in the corner out of the way, as people buzz around us like we're made of honey. The trouble is most of us have NO idea what's going on. Really.

There's a quiet desperation, a lingering hope; an urgency to reach out and stop them as they pass by, just to say..."slow down...stop moving so fast and running so hard. Give me a second of your time to catch up with you. Not because I'm not proud of what you're doing. I am VERY proud of you! Not because I'm mad that you're “there” and I'm “here”; but because THIS moment; right now... is all I have left of the little boy or girl you were when you needed me so badly. Give me a moment to give you "the look", let me share advice you don't want or even know you need yet, so you don't make the same mistakes I did. Let me tell you, in my confused bumbling way that I love you, even if I don't say it. I need to know you still care what I have to say. Then, I can let you walk out the door or walk down the aisle or fly away to war or go off to college and know that I gave you something of me that will carry on long after I'm just a memory.”

See, the thing is, that’s very important to us as Fathers. We plant the seed and then stumble through child rearing with much less finesse than Mother's do, to create a man or a woman that carries on a part of US. Parenting has a different rhythm, a different destination for Fathers than what most Mothers have, I think. You are our heritage. You are our legacy. You are our past inheritances, our present hopes and our future dreams. We'll rarely say it, but you are. Like it or not.

I’m sure Mom’s feel that way too, but I think it’s “different:, because Mom’s are different. They’re Wonder Woman, Superhuman….baffling and all seeing. Amazing creatures, really. (I was not paid for that endorsement, by the way)

Each of my 4 kids, both by blood and by marriage, are a sense of pride, accomplishment, wonder and at times, complete frustration to me. Unique unto themselves and sometimes surprisingly adamant about being that way, they are all singularly amazing, talented people. Unfortunately, I am apparently condemned to watch them make some of the same mistakes I made, despite my advice. And, in truth it's probably the best way for them to learn...but I don't have to be silent about it. And, I rarely they've come to learn over the years. I am what I am and it is what it is.

But, there will always be a little part of me that will see them as the young girl or boy that looked at me with arms open, asking for guidance and reassurance. The one that needed me to be there when they woke up in the morning and went to sleep at night.

You all disappeared much faster than expected. The problem is that most of us don't realize that until you're just an echo down the hallway of our much quieter homes.

The noise of our children creating the music of our home...I miss that. I can still hear the songs and smile…but the instruments are mostly silent these days, off playing in their own bands.

The melody still lingers in my heart though. A song heard for years and hummed often…..and most days, that’s enough.

Happy Fathers Day to all of you Dad's out there!

Thanks for reading…