Archives for January 2011

The Power of Hindsight- A Father Looks Back

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Groucho Marx

Ten minutes ago I hung up the telephone and sighed deeply. It was the conclusion of a 37 minute conversation with my father. He spent most of the call listening to me vent about a number of different things most of which I won’t discuss here. Don’t ask me why I included that last bit because I am not really sure. What I do know is that sometimes my favorite posts to write are ones like this one where I just exhale and type. It is a free wheeling exploration of the dark cavern that exists between my ears. I am in the midst of something big and life changing. Smack dab in the center of a whirlpool that is tossing my old butt every which direction and I am tired of being slammed into the rocks. Tired of it because I don’t break, I don’t bend and I don’t give in and that is a mistake.

I fight and I fight because it is who I am and what I do. There are moments where this sort of thing is useful. There are times when it is admirable and honorable. But that is not always the case. The hard part is trying to determine when those moments are and when it is better to lay down your sword. I attribute some of it to fear. Some of it comes from being scared silly about what might happen, what could happen. When I was a child one of my biggest fears was of the dark. I remember that fear well because sometimes I still feel it. Sometimes that sense of dread and concern about what lies out there waiting, lurking scares me. It is not the same as when I was a kid. Not the same because back then I promised myself that I would grow up to be big and strong. I swore that I would learn how to defend myself and I did. I wasn’t bullied much or picked on, never got my ass kicked, but I worried about it as many boys do.

So when I got older I learned how to take care of myself. Discovered what it felt like to be punched in the mouth or kicked in the head. Learned that I could take a shot and give one back…harder. But I also learned that physical pain was nothing compared to mental.  I learned that my mind could conceive of things that body couldn’t.  That is not to say that there aren’t things that hurt physically.  Because having two crowns and a root canal in the same day really jacked up my mouth, that hurt for a few weeks. Kind of funny to think that breaking my nose never hurt like that (busted it five times) or dislocating my fingers because that didn’t hurt either. Maybe it was the speed with which it happened or maybe it was something else. Not sure and it doesn’t really matter.

Dad interrupts me to say that I am being too hard on myself. It is a novel thing to me because years ago that is not what would have happened. The big guy would have looked at me and asked me how I got into the situation. He would have suggested that perhaps it would be smarter to look at myself and figure out what I did to put myself in that situation. He was a much harder man back then and I can’t say that I miss that side of him. It made me tougher, made me harder but I am not sure if it was better. But than again hindsight is 20-20 and it is not fair to look back.

Visions of Paradise is playing on iTunes and I am bobbing my head in time with the music. I love this song for all sorts of reasons. These lyrics speak to me:

Don’t tell me when
Something is beautiful
And don’t tell me how to
Talk to my friends
Just tell me the names of
The stars in the sky
What’s your favourite song
Tell me the names of the
Lovers you had
Before I came along

Don’t put your arms around me
And don’t hold me tight
‘Cause I could get used to
Your vision of paradise

And don’t ask me where
All of the pain goes
‘Cause you make me feel
That I don’t know myself
You say that you want me forever
And I say that love is no crime
So tell me the names of the children
We’ll have at the end of the line

So don’t put your arms around me
And don’t hold me tight
‘Cause I could get used to
Your vision of paradise
And don’t let me near the garden
Of earthly delights
‘Cause I could get used to
Your vision of paradise
Of paradise
Of paradise

Just use your heart not your head
While I fall apart in my bed
I find myself aching for you
I feel myself breaking in two

So don’t tell me when I should
Come on home
There might be a time you don’t
Want me around
Don’t build your world around me
And don’t hold me tight
‘Cause I could get used to
Your vision of paradise

I see visions in my head and feel things in my heart that call out to me. There are things that I cannot ignore, voices, messages and moments. I look back at the last 8 years and see exactly what I could have done. I look back and see things that I should have done, but I didn’t. I can’t go back, can’t change the past. So I struggle in the whirlpool, fight to keep my head above water because I am scared.

That admission is hard to make, but at the same time I feel better doing so. Admit weakness and I end up feeling relieved and stronger. More confident about the future but just as unsure. The difference is that this time I find myself anxious to meet it head on. The fear of the dark and the unknown is gone, at least for now.

Maybe the trick with the whirlpool is to take a deep breath and let it take me where it will. Maybe it is time to stop fighting the future and time to embrace it. In spite of the uncertainty I feel optimistic. I can’t control the sea, but I can steer the ship.

Facebook Comments

Consider this a short blog PSA regarding Facebook comments.  I do my best to try and respond to all comments, but I do not receive a notification for comments made via FB. I recently changed the settings so now there is an acknowledgment of the comment in the ‘count’ but no email notification. The point of this is to let you know that sometimes I may be slow responding to them.

If you you want a faster response send me an email and I will get back to you. If it is conversation that you want to take place on the blog let me know and if it makes sense we will make it happen.

Some Questions Should be Answered By Mom

Cover of "Rules (Newbery Honor Book)"

Cover of Rules (Newbery Honor Book)

I have a 6.5 year-old daughter who is in many ways a female version of myself. The girl has black hair, dark eyes and freckles. High cheekbones give her a bit of a cherubic expression that she uses to camouflage her penchant for trouble making. She is a miniature mistress of mischief. This girl of mine is always watching the world around her and sponging it all up. This girl of mine is convinced that she can do anything that others do. I love that confidence and do all I can to build upon it. If I have anything to say about this we won’t face the self esteem issues that so many girls battle.

While I can’t guarantee that we won’t hit them I can promise to do everything in my power to help her successfully navigate the rougher waters. It is part of the job description as is handling all sorts of questions about life and the world we live in. The nice thing about her being a younger sibling is that I have already had to answer a lot of the questions. We have talked about life and death, G-d, homeless people, racism and all sorts of other tough questions. I have made a point to do try and be age appropriate with my answers. She doesn’t need to know how to build a clock, just what time it is.

However nothing prepared me for one question in particular.  It was one of those how do you make a baby type questions. It is a topic that some parents find to be challenging to discuss but not me. I figured that it was one of those things that was pretty easily handled. The kids don’t need to know all of the details, just a quick snapshot and they are good. Why mess around with something silly like a story about a stork when I can give them a basic answer that covers it all. At least that was my theory and until recently I would have stuck to it.

Except for one thing, the dark haired beauty asked me something that caught me completely off guard. She sat on my lap read me a story about Olivia (you know, the children’s book) and then looked up at me with those dark little eyes and said, “dad, how far do you stick it in?”

And then for good measure she told me that she was talking about making babies and needed to know how far the man sticks his penis in. In situations like this one of my go to lines is to turn the question back around and say, “what do you think?” Except I couldn’t do that in this case because if she had answered I might have shown up at school and beaten up all of the boys in kindergarten, first grade and perhaps the second grade for good measure. This was truly a WTF moment in the largest sense of the expression.

As the seconds stretched into months I looked at her with a blank expression and tried to figure out what I should say. If one of the boys had related this story to me I would have gleefully answered, “did you tell her all the way” or “until you hear him start snoring.” Frankly I would have preferred to have been in that position where my natural smartass nature could express itself. Instead I found myself semi-stumped and growing irritated with the stutter that had suddenly developed.

A moment later she grabbed my cheeks and told me to look in her eyes. “Daddy! I am talking to you.” That was when I realized that there wasn’t going to be a way to get out of this so I did what any other smart man would do and I punted. “Honey, that is an excellent question but I think that you mom knows more about that than I do. You should ask her.”

And with that I got up and ran for the bathroom door shouting out some sort of excuse about suddenly having developed an upset stomach.

Worth a Look:
Dad Speaks About Boys and Girls
She Is My Girl
A Six Year-old Speaks of Marriage
Rules For Dating My Daughter

A Hired Gun

Apparently my bad dad attitude is considered to be somewhat attractive and I have been asked to join a new team of writers. So I am pleased to say that I am one of the Folkers. That is not Fockers or Fuckers. It is Folkers. It is what the denizens at Fatherfolk call ourselves and each other.

Unless I am captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts or forced to move to cleveland I’ll be contributing on a regular basis over there. The good news is that I am part of a cool team of good writers so I’m going to have to work hard to step up my game so that I don’t get left behind.

Keep your eyes open and I will do my best to keep you posted about new developments.

Sunday Morning Reading

If you are in need of some reading material for your Sunday morning/afternoon may I recommend the following: