Is My Children’s Happiness More Important Than My Own?

(A continuation of A Father’s Burden)

It is around 9 PM or so on a Saturday night. The boys have convinced me to leave the family behind and join them for an evening out. I agreed provided that we didn’t go to a club. I am not interested in spending time at a place filled with loud music and a bunch of drunks. They tell me that I am old and I agree.

I have done my time in those places. Been all over the club scene throughout Los Angeles and have the scars to prove it. Doesn’t matter that half the places I remember are gone. That is what happens when it is decades in between visits and I am ok with it.

It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock is blasting away on the stereo system. It is a bit surreal, this song coming on like that. It reminds me of those pre-fatherhood days, late 80s or so. I am back at the fraternity house. The dance floor is packed full of people. So many of us are in there you don’t have to worry about having any sort of slick moves, there isn’t room for that. All you have to do is bob your head and move your body in with the music.

There are a ton of women dancing. I know quite a few of them from class. There is one in particular that I am really interested in. So I push through the crowd and try to come up with something to say. Will I be witty and clever, cheesy or just give her a simple hello.

“Jack, what do you want to drink?” It takes a moment for me to realize that someone is speaking to me. I turn my head to the right and practically slam my head into a woman’s chest. I look up and see the waitress staring back at me. She wants to know what I want to drink. I order a beer and she heads off to the bar.

The immediately start in on me. I am taking all sorts of abuse about my reaction. I smile and stay quiet. Jimmy doesn’t let it go. He has already imbibed some liquid courage and feels free to tell me that he thinks that our waitress is hot. Because it is loud in here he is louder. Soon everyone knows how he feels about her and that he thinks that we should all look for women who haven’t popped out a bunch of kids.

The women at the table next to us shower us with a mixture of laughter and glares. I look at Jimmy and tell him that he needs to relax. He asks me when I got to be so uptight and in the same breath tells me that I don’t understand what it is like to be divorced. I smile and tell him to STFU. “I love you Jimmy and I am telling you to shut up so that you might actually get laid tonight.”

I turn to my left and I ask John how long they were at the restaurant before we got there. He tells me that Jimmy did two or three shots before they left the house and that as soon as they arrived he grabbed two more. I nod my head and suggest that we try to get him out of this place sooner than later.

A few hours later we find ourselves at Jimmy’s condo. We are sitting in his living room drinking coffee and talking. He tells us that he has not one single regret about leaving his wife. He says that he hasn’t been happy for years and that he is not sure if he ever really loved her. He explains that he got married because that is what he thought he should do.

There is more talk and stories are shared, head nod in unison. John says he understands and tells us that he stayed married five years longer than he wanted to because he was concerned about the children. Jimmy says that he left because he loves his kids and was worried that his unhappiness made him a bad father.

They talk some more about the impact of divorce on children. I don’t have personal experience so I remain relatively quiet. In the quiet of the evening the question that we talk about is whether a child’s happiness supercedes that of the parent.

Later during the drive home I sit at a stoplight and replay the events of the evening in my head. There was much food for thought.

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