You guys, I’m not usually this ultra-focused.
Yes, there are moments during the World Cup, or when I’m picking out cheese at the grocery store. In the past few days, fatherhood – and parenthood – have hunkered down, front and center, in most of my thoughts. And writing.
Fatherhood did many things for me.
Do you know Dana Schwartz? She’s a terrific writer who posted about how motherhood obliterated her. Such poignant words, such a vast feeling. Beautifully honest. How utterly unprepared we are at this parenting game.
Hasn’t anyone ever thought of a course in high school that focuses on life skills? Stuff like budgeting, cooking, home repair, the point of knowing when to hire someone to fix something before you destroy a weight-bearing wall in your home?
Home economics died out before I got to the age to take it, perhaps a casualty of a sense of duty to equal rights and wiping out gender roles. But, damn. I could have used something like that.
What was I getting into?
I imagine a setting with guest speakers, real people who’ve been there, who’ve had to stay up all night with a feverish child and still go to work in the morning and also negotiate with the credit card company about a late payment.
I didn’t – and still don’t – want the answer key.
I wanted to understand by association what I was getting into. That my life changed the moment the lines showed up on the pregnancy test? That’s given. The small events that followed – the actual day of birth, holding my child, the deluge of ‘advice’ …
You know what? Forget about wanting help as a dad starting out. It’s over.
I came out of that a changed man, or perhaps, a revealed man. Imperfect, with a catalog of imperfections still to emerge. Did I become the man I was meant to be? Everything before then focused on keeping my own ass alive.
Now, I knew purpose – true purpose, not just getting homework in on time or washing behind my ears.
I’d become so many things in this life – a son, a student, a husband, a writer – which all changed me, altered my makeup and my trajectory. None of those, significant as they were, landed with the gravity and aftermath as fatherhood.
Fatherhood changed everything
It’s so complete, this transformation.
I wonder how much I’d recognize myself pre-fatherhood. Fatherhood changed everything, and much of it I handled with the grace of a thousand rhinos in a second-floor apartment. The thought of failings then stings.
If I’d only not resisted the tide.
If only I’d fought less with change, not pursued parts of me that mattered so little. I’d want the chance to take a car ride with my old self, speak some words of wisdom, shake up a simple mind and narrow focus. But it probably wouldn’t stick.
So much of my pursuit of peace has centered on present mindfulness, which would dismiss several of the previous paragraphs.
I am where I am, now. Rather than focus on losses, I’m beginning to see the wins, or at least, the absence of losses. The ways that my life and my daughters’ lives are enriched, regardless of wrong choices or vanity or gluttony of many things.
Here, WE are, then.
What drives you to be a better dad?
Just as a man trades in his single-guy two-door sedan for a minivan, a man sheds a skin of lone wolf and out emerges the regal air of being a dad. “There’s something hot about an involved dad,” a friend once told me.
If being hot drives you to be a better dad, though, you’re on the wrong track.
How hot can we be in cargo shorts, vehemently denying thinning hair and expanding waists, prevalent gray and a gap between what was cool when we knew it and what’s cool now? (Our cool is better, I’ll tell you that.)
I saw T-shirts in a Myrtle Beach shop window, a brand called Old Guys Rule, and I did a mental fist-pump. Oh hell, I did a physical one, too, because right there on the shirt was John Wayne, the ultimate old guy.
The dude had seven kids and still kicked ass.
It was a reminder to me to not worry about missed chances and failures, because, you know, the play is still going on. The ball’s still in play, and I have fathering to do today. It’s a listening ear and a ride to a game.
It’s guidance on the field, and breakfast in the morning.
Man, it’s given me purpose and focus and when I can get out of my own way, I can even channel a little of the inner John Wayne I need more of. And that’s just the ultra-focus – and ultra-chill – I need.
The rest of the A to Z to this point:
A is for Addiction to Devices
C is for Interview with a Cat
D is for Do What I Do and Eat What I Eat
E is for Eight Things I’ve Left Behind
F is for Foods That Bring Me Comfort
H is for Halfway There
I is for Ice Cream
J is for Justification for the Blog Life
K is for 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With
M is for Men I Forgot to Be
N is for the New Plan
Q is for Quote Challenge
R is for Blogger Recognition
S is for Six Words
T is for Teenagers
U is for Unconventional Loves