A Father’s Failure

Father and Son

Life is about changes and transitions. Endings are beginnings and beginnings are endings. It sounds like the sort of new age claptrap that makes me crazy but I believe it to be true. There have been endless conversations between my father and I about this. They are all tied into my being slow to unwilling to accept change. I don’t like change. I am a creature of habit and when I grow comfortable I am usually happy to stay in my comfort zone.

Yet this is balanced against the double dose of wanderlust and a desire to explore that lives inside me. A friend once described me as being consistent in my inconsistencies and this I believe to be true. So I have a lifetime of experiences in which the urge to resist change fights that desire to embrace it. Time has taught me that I am far more adaptable than I sometimes think of myself. Time has taught me that when I don’t paint myself into a corner I find it relatively easy to roll with the punches and just go with it. I know and understand these things- but it doesn’t mean that I have to like or accept them.

And now while I collect my thoughts here are the last five songs that played on iTunes:

On the Road Again– Willie Nelson
Join Together– The Who
Behind Blue Eyes– The Who
Love Reign O’Er Me– The Who
Mansions of the Lord- West Point USMA Cadet Glee Club

Transitions are often hard because when we aren’t gifted with prescience you can’t see through the mists of time and ascertain whether the change will be good or bad. As a parent it is hard because you look at your children and want to be certain that you don’t do anything that will hurt them. You don’t want to cause issues that will stay with them throughout their lives or do anything that will stunt their growth. Sometimes the fear prevents us from making changes that are important, significant, meaningful and good for them. Sometimes we forget that children are resilient, far more so than most adults.

I fight hard to keep these things in mind. I fight hard to try not to make my issues into their issues. Case in point.

I went to the same elementary school from kindergarten through fifth grade. It was the neighborhood school. As a first grader I joined a number of the neighborhood kids and walked there and back every day. I have vivid memories of these walks and the things that we used to  do on them. We played tag, had dirt clod fights, wrestled and just acted like kids. Very different from the experience that my kids and so many others who are driven to school have.

Somewhere around late May the school would provide the sixth graders with special privileges. They had the sixth grade lawn and “underclassmen” who walked upon it risked being stuffed inside a trash can as punishment for their transgression. Naturally the sixth grade boys encouraged us to try and we did. They never did catch me. I was either too fast or too strong to hold onto and I got away. It was great fun and I looked forward to being a sixth grader and enjoying that privilege and others, but it was not to be.

Three days into sixth grade my parents moved my middle sister and I to a magnet school. I was furious. Instead of walking to school with my friends and ruling the school I rode a bus to place that went from 4th grade all the way to 1oth. I went from being a giant to being stuck in the middle. It was hard. It was unpleasant and I didn’t particularly enjoy much of it. That is not to say that I adjusted, but it took a long time.

This all comes in context of the potential changes facing my children as it is likely that I am going to have to pull them out of their private school. I mention this because they have been talking about next year, plotting and planning. I mention this because we have been thrilled with the school. I have watched them grow, mature and learn so very much.

Life is filled with much harder changes and transitions than this but it still hurts. It hurts because I feel like I have failed them. It hurts because I don’t know where they are going to go to school. I cannot send them to the local public school. It is unacceptable and I will not let that happen.

There are other public schools that are good, that are solid but I can’t guarantee enrollment in them unless we move. That is not easily done or without complications.

We will all survive whatever changes are made. We will all get through this but I’d be lying if I said this was easy. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t look at them and feel badly that I can’t give them everything they want. Sometimes heroes fail and the villain gets away. That is good for movies but not as much fun in real life.

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4 Comments

  1. Brett April 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Remember what you wrote, “Sometimes we forget that children are resilient, far more so than most adults.”

    My son has been put through changes that I never would have wished upon him. We are going through more changes at this very moment. When I step back and look at the big picture however I can see that the changes have made him stronger and more able to deal with adversity. I think that dealing with change as a child will prepare him to deal with adversity when he becomes an adult. I try to protect my son at all costs but I also think that over-sheltering kids can do more harm than good in some instances. Exposing the kids to some change now can help them become more resilient adults.

    Either way thank you for writing this. I needed to read this today.

    All the best,
    Brett

    • Jack April 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      I am in agreement about how these events can make it easier to deal with adversity when they are older, but it is one hell of a process to get to that point. All we can is try to make it as easy as possible and teach them to keep their heads up.

  2. Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog April 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Hey, as a mom who pulled her kids from public school to homeschool them (2 years ago), I know all about worrying over whether or not the choices we make for them will be beneficial or scarring. It’s a huge responsibility, this parenting gig. At least I know that I’m not alone in screwing up part of the time. THAT is a universal certainty.

    • Jack April 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      Everything they say about parenting is true- it is both the hardest and most rewarding job around. I don’t know if I have the patience for home schooling.

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