We are running at full speed and I think he is yelling at me but I can’t hear him nor will I stop to look because in a moment I’ll be spent and he won’t be.
In a moment he’ll pass by me and I know the smile that will greet me, assuming I am not doubled over huffing and puffing too hard to see his expression.
If this were a moment in time I’d say the sun is setting upon it and that soon my days of being faster will be behind me. It is not just because I am not in the kind of shape I want to or need to be in to run like I want to either.
It is because when we finish this particular orbit of the earth he’ll still be a teenager and I’ll be one step closer to fifty.
My physical condition isn’t so poor that I can’t slow the deterioration all people face or that I might not be able to find a way to use force of will to hold the line I have drawn in the sand because all things are possible.
But I don’t lie to myself about what is and what I see so I concede that his star is rising.
A father’s pride in his offspring and ego are struggling for dominance here, fighting to find a place where both are content to stand.
People Don’t Have To Approve Of You
We are talking about school and life, sharing stories about experiences we have had and I am doing my best to be present.
It is not because I am not interested in what he has to say but because some of it triggers my own memories and the wave of images flashing behind my eyes is almost impossible to ignore.
He is working out what he believes and what he thinks. Working out where he fits in and where he doesn’t.
Some of it is easy for him because he knows what lines he will not cross and where his principles are but there are darker corners where he hasn’t determined where to stand.
I tell him that life isn’t always as black and white as we would like it to be and that sometimes there are blurry areas.
“People don’t have to approve of you and if everything you do is based on getting validated by others you’ll live a hard and lonely life. That doesn’t mean you always need to be different because you don’t. Sometimes you need to go along to get along and sometimes you don’t.”
He nods his head and I tell him it is not always easy.
“There have been lots of times where I have felt misunderstood. It still happens. The question is whether it is important or not.”
“Dad, how do you figure it out?”
I smile and tell him you just figure it out as you go.
Do It Your Way
We talk some more and I tell him about a moment at my basketball game.
I describe how while we were shooting around the ball got stuck between the rim and the backboard and how the guys just stood around and stared at it.
“Did you jump up and knock it loose?”
I laugh, “nah, I can’t jump like that anymore and I didn’t try. Instead I dropped my shoulder and slammed it into the post so see if I could shake it loose.”
My son shakes his head and I laugh again.
“The guys gave me all sorts of shit about that. Would have been easier to get another ball and throw it at it, but I didn’t feel like waiting. I saw an opportunity and I took it.”
“What happened after that?”Click To Tweet
“The whole thing shook but the damn thing didn’t fall. I was going to hit it again but someone threw a ball to me and told me not to break my shoulder. That happened a while ago and some guys still give me a hard time about it.”
“Does that bother you?”
“Not really, I don’t need their approval but I’ll be honest and say that if I was playing with guys from the office I might have done things differently but that that is a different situation.”
Work Smarter, Not Harder
We speak about the importance of working smarter and not harder all the time. Multiple conversations about the importance of doing things the right way and not just taking shortcuts to make things easier.
I try to explain why I might behave differently with colleagues compared to guys I play ball with in a way that makes sense.
It is important to me that he understand the nuance here and recognize appropriate behavior based upon circumstance but the truth is, I worry more about myself there than him.
The older I get the less I care about so many things. More and more things are classified as narishkeit in my eyes and their importance discounted.
Sometimes I wonder if that is because they really are or if I have just grown tired and frustrated and this is my excuse to let go.
I look in the mirror and say “do as I say, not as I do” and wonder who I am speaking to.
I Just Want To Be A Good Father
I got the smile I expected from him and take some good natured ribbing about being anÂ old manÂ and then I tell him I have a challenge for him.
“I am going to do a set up of pushups while you sit on me.”
He sits on my back and I bang out a handful of them and then I buck the kid off. I roll onto my back and tell him to try that when he has his own teenager.
“You’re still huffing and puffing old man.”
“Yeah, but I did it and I am not worried about what I am going to feel like tomorrow morning. This is just motivation to work harder.”
We smile at each other and start walking towards home, the sun is in the middle of the sky but for just a second I swear I see streaks of orange and red.