Are you a 21st century father? I ask because I don’t know what that means nor am I sure that I need to. What I know is that yesterday I spent most of the day with a certain almost eleven year-old boy who thinks that I am a freaking magician who can do anything.
He thinks that I don’t cry because I am tough but doesn’t understand the price that I have paid for that. He doesn’t know that there have been more than a handful of moments where I screamed at the moon and demanded that I be given a fair fight. He doesn’t know that I have spent more time than I care to think about walking through hell covered in gasoline because I thought that was what I had to do.
I did it because I thought that it was the right thing to do. I subjugated my own need for certain things because I thought that it was necessary and right. The melodramatic side of me would tell you that I did it because I wanted to be righteous and needed to feel like I did no less than my own father and grandfathers.
See, I look at those men and see role models that I should have done better following. The funny thing about it is that I know lots more about them all now than I once did. I was fortunate enough to have decades of life alongside my grandfathers as not just a child but an adult.
We sat down and talked about what it means to be a dad, a husband and a man. I know about many of their struggles but I can’t shake this feeling that they were tougher, smarter, stronger and or better at this than me.
Intellectually I don’t believe any of that to be true. I love them all and know them well enough that they would be honest and say that I am wrong. They wouldn’t hesitate. No son/grandson got more support but the thing about life is that even when you know certain things to be true sometimes a piece of you hesitates and says that maybe the whispers know more.
And maybe, just maybe that is why I have screamed at the moon. Â Maybe I have gone looking for trouble because I knew that it was time to meet it head on. Maybe I knew that I needed to call the devil forth so that I could kick his ass or have mine kicked.
That is the thing about transition and change- it is not easy. Even when you know that it is right and necessary it can be a bitch. And if you haven’t figured it out yet I prefer to attack some challenges head on. Give me the damn ball and I am going run it up the middle until you surrender or my body gives out.
Yesterday that boy of mine beat me. Can’t tell you how excited I was. He beat me. My son beat me. Didn’t fall for any of the tricks, feints and traps I set- he handled them all. And then he handled me. Dammit, I am so proud that it takes the sting out of losing and I hate to lose.
What I loved about it was that it showed that he has been listening, learning and applying what he has learned to life. The little man couldn’t have smiled more broadly or been prouder of himself. For a moment I stared into those soft eyes of his and remembered the boy who asked me not to die and then I saw the boy he is now.
I congratulated him on his victory and he told me that he wants me to try harder next time. I promised him that I would, nodded my head and felt badly that I couldn’t tell my heroes about his victory.
And later that night as I lay my head down I couldn’t help but smile and feel like maybe, just maybe I have a handle on this father business. If nothing else I think that I am doing a decent job of writing letters to them so that one day they’ll know that sometimes we all feel like our hair is on fire. And maybe they’ll understand better why I am never bothered when people call me a dad blogger.