Dad questions his usefulness

I recently had a career-advancing event which impacted the whole family in a positive manner. I was eager to share the event with my wife and two boys with dinner at our favorite restaurant. Dinner was going to be a triple event, as we would quasi-celebrate my youngest son’s 15th birthday and my wive’s birthday (I’m omitting her age here for fear of retribution!) which I had missed recently due to work travel.

On the way to dinner, we let our oldest soon, soon to be 17, drive – or, more appropriately, he INSISTS on driving. Well, his youthful aggression of having out loud conversations with other drivers/vehicles that bore on the realm of psychosis got the better of me and I said something. So, he naturally retaliates and rather than listening to what I have to say, he pushes back and immediately induces some “whataboutism” and mentions my same aggression when behind the wheel. True, I will do some of the same exact things as he, but I’ve owned that when teaching him to drive. I’ve said, “I don’t want you to do what I’ve fallen into – I want you to be BETTER than me.”

That’s how I go about everything with my kids – I’m not trying to be a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ parent. I fully understand there is an ingrained impression from what my boys have SEEN me do and then what I TELL them to do. I try to be better in those areas and I explain it to them as much as they’ll listen.

That said, dinner was a stinker. I was in a bad mood and didn’t feel like celebrating anything. My wife tried to make things better between two brooding Alpha males only to make it worse. Even my youngest son chimed in against me in ways that caused me to feel extreme abandonment issues. This was my buddy – it hurt. It was 3 against 1. So, after dinner, I had them drop me off downtown so I could hit the bar and be alone. It’s not how I deal with every problem, but this time felt different and I needed to pour some alcohol down my throat to continue the pity party raging inside me.

Rather than just succumb to the enchantments of local bar scene engagements. I scrolled through some saved emails from my lists of professional and personal development. One which really caught my attention was Krista Tippet’s On Being newsletter from the past week which highlighted a beautiful poem from a writer with a deep and sorrowful background. The poem really reached me and I was only 1 beer/whiskey into my self-abuse session.

So, I decided to try a little poetry to help ease my grief. My poem focused on the issues I am experiencing with my oldest son as it’s a continuous state of strife when he’s not ‘getting his way’. It causes issues because he has so much going on in his life that is good and he didn’t have to work to hard to get there – it was genetics/time/place kind of karma. I am constantly telling him that for the final push to achieve everything one wants – there has to be some exertion beyond the comfort zone. A blood tax must be paid. He nods and says he gets it, but I can see he thinks dad is a dope. So, I must let him be. But the most difficult part is – what if let him be and he doesn’t achieve the goal and it’s because I LET UP on him? How do I know when I’ve pushed him enough and success/failure rests COMPLETELY ON HIS shoulders? I don’t know.

Here is poem, I have no idea whether it’s good or not – it’s just what I feel. And somewhere along the line, I’ve heard that’s what makes the difference between something good and something bad – how it makes you feel.

Too many days I don’t recognize the man before me
Face with a bearded growth
Statuesque of a being larger than I’ve laid eyes on
Full of mal-formed wisdom

Long gone is the boy
That played with cars and toys
Who sat on my knee
And listened to Dr. Suess

Now stands an adolescent
Fueled by chemicals I’ve lost years ago
Sure of himself
And sure he doesn’t need me

Days of past
When he would call for his father
No matter the scene
Light, dark, easy, or hard

A world ahead of him
Larger than I could ever imagine
Hopes and dreams
Grander than I could fathom

I realize what my father
Experienced a generation past
My regrets creep up
Like bile in the throat

I can’t force my lessons
He must learn his own
So, I don’t know whose journey will be more difficult
Mine or his.


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