I’ve reached a point in my life when most dads my age are taking their grandkids for ice cream and giving sage business advice to their 30 and 40 something corporately successful progeny. (I watch too many Disney movies!)
Yet my own kids are stressing about high school classes and who to invite to a sleepover without alienating their other friends. Heck, my daughter just celebrated her 13th birthday! Thirteen!! How did that even happen? Time flies…
Conversations with my twin sister Debbie regularly contain the phrases, “Are you mad?” and “What were you thinking!? Well, in my defense as a man, does thinking really come into play during the moments of procreation?
Being an older father to 2 teenagers is quite different from being an older dad to 2 small children. It’s been years since I’ve had to punch someone out for calling me “Grandad”. Well, maybe just in my imagination…
I’ve also stopped comparing myself to other dads, especially younger dads. I guess I’ve gotten to the point when I know I’m a better dad then they are. Sometimes you just know what you know, yo know?
And to any younger dads reading this, first; how the hell did you get my password, and also; I’m kidding. As a dad, you’re awesome. In your young kid’s eyes, you’re their hero. Just do everything in your power to keep on being their hero as they grow up. I’ve learned the best way to do that is to keep listening, keep learning. My kids have been the best teachers for me. As long as I approach my relationship with my children with an open mind, I’ll keep learning.
I certainly don’t want to give anyone the idea that I have all the answers when it comes to fatherhood. Ha! Far from it! I sometimes struggle with one lesson my parents taught me about being a parent. “Avoid discussing a difficult topic with your children, at all costs.” I don’t know how many times I did dumb things that I knew my parents found out about, but I never heard “boo” from them. And let’s not even talk about the whole “sex” thing! No really, let’s not talk about it! But seriously, communicating with teenagers can be tough, but so damned important.
Dinner conversations have become an important family connection. For us, this is the time for listening, for sharing, for problem-solving, and for laughing. We can sit long after the dishes have been cleared, and laugh. Doesn’t matter what’s going on in our children’s lives. We can always find something to laugh about.
I think laughter is a good indicator of listening. Mutual laughter means we understand each other, and understanding one another is a validation that we’re listening to each other. I just re-read that. I think it makes sense?
While it’s still a work in progress, I’m learning to trust my kids. The thing is, I remember what I was like at 16. Zach is just about there. But he’s nothing like I was. Thank God! But just in case, I have been fully prepared for the teenager I was. All the sneaky scenarios of my teenagehood and the appropriate defenses have been filed away in my brain. But I haven’t needed any with Zachary. Granted, he’s only at the age when I started my hijinks, but I’m pretty confident my strategies won’t be needed. Of course Beth-Rose may be another story!
The Head Honcho
I’m smart enough to know my parenting skills have nothing to do with it. It’s all about the Mother. Heather. The Boss. Queen of the family. Let’s face it, without Heather my children would be eating Chef Boyardee from the can in their underwear while watching Shameless. At 2 a.m.
Heather has become the consummate mom. She puts our kids first and sets the moral baseline for their development. She’s strict but fair. As a teacher of young kids, she relates with children at a level I could never attain. How she can be in a classroom with 20 plus grade 3 hellions is beyond me. Heather has Ninja Voodoo skills that are completely beyond my understanding. Those skills have helped her be a great mom.
I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if we had not had children. And with that, I present you with my active imagination! Please suspend your disbelief for the following fantasy.
Heather and I awaken to the brilliant, tropical sun streaming through the open floor to ceiling windows. The macaws and howler monkeys are in the trees bitching over a couple of over-ripe mangoes, while our manservant, Renaldo, enters the bedchamber with our coffee and yerba mate. Heather stretches luxuriously and asks, "What shall we do today, darling?" After a breakfast of mango slices and imported Devon cream, we take the golf cart into town to do a little shopping. the market is a busy place, with vendors shouting over one another, trying to gain the attention of the distracted morning shoppers. We stroll the market for a while, enjoying the sights, sounds and wonderful smells before heading back to our villa with the morning purchases of fresh caught shrimp, avocadoes and local vegetables. I prepare a light lunch of fruit and sliced cheeses. Heather steps onto the beach in front of our villa for a few hours of sunbathing with her latest book. I take my laptop out to the terrace to do a little writing while also checking out or cryptocurrency accounts. The numbers continue to look fantastic! At that moment there's a knock at the front door. I open it to find my son Zach, replete in baggy pants and red hoodie, standing with his hand out. "Can I have 15 bucks to buy a game on Steam?"
Crap!! Every time it starts getting good, reality intrudes!
And while it’s fun to imagine our life without children, it’s also more fun to live a real life with all the ups and downs that come with raising and nurturing two amazing children. Living that imaginary life would have deprived us of watching our daughter grow into a beautiful and talented dancer. We would never have gotten to meet our son and experience his brilliant creativity and intelligence.
And laughter. So much laughter! Our kids have their own very independent senses of humour that amaze and delight Heather and I.
Really, it would have been a sad life to have never met our children. We would have missed out on so much. We would not have learned so much. I never thought I was particularly cut out to be a dad. For the first 40 years of my life it wasn’t even an inkling. How we change! The adventure of parenting is a lifelong journey, and it’s one I’m happily taking.
Our daughter Beth-Rose worries about growing up and going out into the world to make a difference. She sometimes thinks she won’t find her mission to make the world a better place. Bless her heart! I’ve come to learn that the greatest impact I can make in our world is to raise good people to carry on after me. Right now, I’m feeling pretty good about my mission.