Life Doesn’t Come with A Manual

I have come to look forward to my time here at the computer, late in the evening, the family is asleep and the house is dark. Without the light from the monitor the living room would be nothing but dark shapes, couches, coffee table, bookcases, chairs and the toys that escaped the evening cleanup.

Longtime friends remember that I was the guy who was awake and on the prowl in the wee hours of the morning. If your boyfriend dumped you and you couldn’t sleep there was a good chance that I would be awake at 2 or 3. Sometimes I was just getting home, other nights I had just finished reading and wasn’t ready for sleep. I never needed much, although I realize now that I needed more than I thought. The lack of little people helped to camoflauge the cat naps I must have grabbed here and there. Nonetheless, I still need less than many.

There is something nice about the dark, it is comforting, a quiet time I can use to listen to music and reflect. I spend a lot of time lost in Jack’s world, it is a place that is my escape and my prison, but my jailor grows sloppy in his old age or maybe I have grown craftier, a cagey veteran of many battles.

Tonight my son and I had a couple of hours of playtime together. We read books in English and Hebrew. He wanted to know why Hebrew is read right to left and English is left to right. He wasn’t satisfied with my answer. He asked where people went when they die, if I liked eating cookies with yogurt and if I could out run a car.

I answered his questions as honestly as I could and then he added a hundred more of all shapes and sizes. I love his curiosity and his interest in the world around him. I catch him staring at people, places and things, silent, but taking it all in. He is intense and I think that it is fair to say that I am too.

I wonder how much of the intensity is due to genetics and how much is from social modeling, that is, what has he picked up by watching me.

Every evening when he goes to sleep I tell him that I love him and that I will always watch out for him. I don’t know who likes hearing it more, me or him.

The little guy has grown to be protective of his baby sister. He is unwilling to let people approach her and has a tendency to try and cover her body with his own. Maybe it is time to stop watching videos of my time in the Secret Service. 😉

From the time of his birth we began blessing him every Friday night. On Thursday nights we have a ritual of reminding him that Shabbos is coming and that he receives a special blessing that no one else gets. I didn’t realize how seriously he has come to take that until he complained about the blessing his sister receives. Once I explained that it was different from his he was ok.

This evening I was given another example of how my words and actions have impacted him. We were playing air hockey and he began to cheat. We have been working on teaching him that there are rules that are applied to games and that he has to follow the rules there. So I corrected him and the game resumed.

He managed to score on himself twice and I won. I don’t go out of my way to try and beat him, but I don’t always let him win. He needs to lose so that he can learn how to do so gracefully as well as he needs to learn how to deal with it, coping skills are important.

But he was tired tonight and he put up a fuss. He told me that he wasn’t my friend. I gave him a look and he recited the new mantra. It goes something like this: “I am not your friend, I am your father and I am the only one you get.” Somewhere my father smiled, his lesson has been passed on to the next generation.

Speaking of losing, the four-year-old destroyed me the other day, We were playing hockey on the playstation, it was my first time playing the game and I was cocky. How could a little boy hope to beat me. 15-0, that is how. The second game I managed a 2-2 tie and felt better.

As we played I reflected on the Playstation. It belongs to one of his aunts, one of the leftovers of a failed relationship. The jackass she had been engaged to had purchased it with their money, that really doesn’t matter. I’ll get to the point in a moment.

This particular aunt is one of my baby sisters, she has a twin. When she was seeing this guy we recognized earlier than she did that he was playing a game. One day when we were all at my parent’s home I lost my patience with him and exchanged words with him.

As we argued he raised his arm, I don’t know if it was for emphasis or something else, but I got a funny feeling. I told him very pointedly that if it twitched again I would tear it off at the shoulder and beat him like a ragdoll with it.

My son was in the other room. I had been speaking in a normal tone of voice, but my family tells me that the entire house heard my offer of a free “attitude adjustment” to this guy. I heard my son scream and then cry. When he heard me yell he got scared. I feel badly about that, but it is all part of my protective nature.

FWIW, there was no physical contact between me and this guy. My father heard me yell and hustled into the room and asked him to leave while he was able to do so under his own power. At some point my sister showed up too and reiterated that it would be wise to not challenge me further.

It is a good thing that my parents don’t live in a trailer park, or this probably would have turned into a scene from “COPS.”

Anyway, I got a little off track. The real point of all of this is that I look at my children and consider what it is I want for them. The long and the short of it is that I want them to grow up to be people of character and integrity, happy and well-adjusted. The hard part is that there is no hard and fast rule for how to make that happen.

There is no one path or one way to do things and there have been a lot of moments where I shake my head and wonder how to make it all work and how to keep things going.

In the end I still shrug my shoulders and just accept that it will work and that things will be fine. I understand all too well that for some people it is not fine, it does not work out. But if I can teach my children how to be self-sufficient, provide them with an education, love and a sense of self-worth and belief in themselves I have to believe that it will work out.

Really, there is no point in having anything but a positive outlook, life is too short.

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1 Comment

  1. Z February 10, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    You are absolutely right and you’re also a terrific father and a very thoughtful person, which is what truly counts in this world in my opinion.

    My husband will also be happy to know that he is not the only one to lose PS Hockey by double digits to the Boy!!! There are others!!!!!

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