Father’s Day is over for this year so you can rightfully accuse me of not being very timely with the content of this column. (Honestly, you can rightfully accuse me of a lot of things in regards to the content of all of my columns: lack of timeliness, lack of relevance, lack of seriousness, lack of long form analysis of the works of Marcel Proust, lack of data approved by institutions of higher learning and an acute lack of nutritional value.) Even though I am a tad late I am going to write about fatherhood.
I am currently well into my fiftieth year of life so I have seen fatherhood as a spectator for nearly that long. I wasn’t very attentive to anything other than food, sleep and hugs for the first several months and for the next couple years Bugs Bunny and Batman overshadowed my observations on the art and practice of being a parent.
I have also participated in the experiment as a father for twenty years. Kid Number One showed up in 1993 and since then two more moved into the house. So I have some experience to draw upon as I come to my various conclusions.
There are frequent times I wish I could be more like my father. A man who exuded integrity. A man who had earned the respect of so many people. A man who was not expected to go to all of his children’s music programs and ballgames and art shows because he was the dad and he was allowed to sit in his chair, watch the news, read the latest Louis L’Amour western and only be involved in the raising of children in a manner of his own choosing due to the fact that Dads of the 70’s were still using the Dads of the 50’s as their role models. The current paradigm of being “engaged” and “present” in the lives of one’s children is exhausting.
When the kids were very small I was amazed about many things involved with being a father. It was stunning just how much love I could feel for what was at first nothing much more than a blob of protoplasm but a blob which could smile. It was unbelievable how easy I found it to put selfish things down the priority chain and focus on the needs of a helpless human. It was downright astounding the things I was not only willing to touch but unthinkingly grab hold of and put in my pocket (by “things” I mean the materials exuded from the various orifices the child had not yet learned to control on his or her own).
Ever since I moved out of the toddler stage myself I have been a rather sedentary person. I like stillness and quiet. Then a set of toddlers appeared in my house and still and quiet were not their preferred modes of being. I found ways to meet them halfway. For instance when we went to the swimming pool they would want to play games in which we each pretended to be some sort of sea dwelling creature. One would be a clownfish, one would be a dolphin and one would be a sea horse and I would proudly announce I was a barnacle and gleefully attach myself to the side of the pool.
Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my children very much. Especially now that they are such complete human beings capable of driving themselves places. I truly like them. I’m talking not just the paternal love that is considered to be a requirement of the deal, but a genuine “I would hang out with these people even if they didn’t share a large amount of my DNA” kind of like.
I often talk about how important it is to me to laugh. My kids make me laugh often and with gusto. Kid #1 is in college, engaged to be married to a fine young man and a fully capable contributor to society but she still likes to dance across the living room in a silly manner and try to engage me in a fight with her inner mongoose. Kid #2 is heading off to college in August and has a stronger work ethic than the guys who got Apollo 11 to the moon but she spends time finding the cute and her wicked wit keeps the house lively. Kid #3 is often ignored due to his basic hermit tendencies but he is multitalented and contributes such statements as “The Martian Manhunter is a boss. He is the Swiss Army knife of super heroes.”
Christopher Pyle continues to take on the role of barnacle on a regular basis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.