Father of the Year

hammock (2)I made a mistake – the kind that hurts the people you love.  It happened when I got lazy with my words and insulted husband in front of our daughters.  It started innocently with a conversation about Principessa’s birthday request last year – to take a surfing lesson with Dad.  Neither had surfed before but husband easily picked up the skill, like most agility-related things he tries.  Peach remarked that she’d like to learn to surf and would like to take a lesson.  “No need,”  her sister remarked, “Dad can teach you.  He was really good.”  To which I absentmindedly replied, “Maybe not.  He’s a horrible teacher.”  Ouch.

Husband got angry.  I got defensive.  Later that night, having managed to strip myself of stubborn pride, I sat us all down for an apology.  It was a teachable moment at my expense about taking responsibility for one’s words and attitudes.  All this to say that my transgression made me reflect on husband with less of an ‘I’ve been married for 19 years and have earned the right to say what I want’ mentality, and more of a compassionate ‘Look at the magnificent man I just threw crap at!”  (This, the same man who tried to teach me to snowboard and almost knocked my teeth out with his knee, which is why  I say he’s a terrible teacher.  But I digress.)

Husband is the man who, when accused by the teenaged Principessa of being disconnected from her, Googled articles on fathers and daughters to better understand how to mend their relationship from her point of view.  Despite his efforts, Principessa holds tight to her assessment.  I’m led to believe by parenting experts that this is normal separation-type behavior and completely age-appropriate.  Whatever, it’s still frustrating.

Because Principessa doesn’t know what a great dad she has. I’m fairly certain that my father didn’t research ways to connect better with me. The parenting standards were different.  An elderly friend offered this generational divide – she said she had a good father, one who didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t beat her.  Oh yes, and he didn’t give her away when her Mom died.  Lucky girl.

When Principessa pulled her wild card – the one that reminds us that she has only one year left in our house before college so we better appreciate her  – husband called her bluff.  He proposed a year-long commitment between the two of them.  During the 52 weeks until Principessa graduates, they would commit to one day per week to do something together – just the two of them.  He did the math out loud, “That’s 26 ideas apiece. Sunday nights.  You and me.”

It sounded a bit like husband was challenging Principessa to a street fight, but she accepted the terms nonetheless.  I sensed nervousness on both sides.

As you can imagine, it’s been a rough start.  Finding time is always a challenge.  But neither are willing to surrender.  They bake together, go out for ice cream, exercise….and they sometimes argue.  But at the end of the day, they’ve made a deposit into their relationship bank account.

I suspect that the significance of husband’s efforts will bounce fruitlessly off of Prinicipessa’s  surly attitude.  Like a typical teen, she’d die before she’d release her claims that Dad is uncool.  Lucky for him, teenhood is not a permanent condition.  I envision a day – far, far, away – when Principessa will reflect on this time with appreciation.  “We had such fun!” she’ll say.  Husband will repress his desire to strangle her and will reply, “Why yes, we did.  We always had fun.”

firetruck (2)

 

pretzel (2)

 

toenails (2)

Farther Down The Road

two footprintsMother can hear grown son screaming to her, or at her, from a distance ahead.  She is hard of hearing but can still make out a tone of annoyance, if not the actual words.  “Catch up, Mom!  Get with the times.  Live!”

Mother wants to oblige.  She promised to follow her baby to the ends of the earth.  But she finds that she can’t keep up now, and son will not slow down.  Can she blame him?  He has a young life to live.  He is smitten with his own family, his glitzy career, his agenda.

Mother is not youthful anymore.  She doesn’t want to give in to ‘old’ yet, but age is calling the shots and she is powerless over it.  Fears are creeping in at a rapid pace. She knows her limits.  Eventually, she gives up the chase and sits down at the side of the path.  It feels so good to rest.   And so lonely.

Mother hardly recognizes herself.  She remembers a time when she was fun and open-minded.  She and son took on the world together.  But the world is faster now, and she is slower.  Speed is no longer a friend.  So she reverts to safe mode, which annoys her son.

Son is easily frustrated by Mother’s evolution.  He is impatient and critical.  He wants her to be the hero she used to be:  ‘Mother the Great’: Invincible Adventurer of Life and Defender of Love.  Deep down Mother knows that son is fearful too.  He sees her slipping away and feels a piece of himself breaking off.  The man he is will not allow him to accept the inevitable.  He will fight age and death by ignoring the signs. He will pretend, as he is accustomed, that Mother is indestructible.

Mother recalls a time when her son was little, playing by the lakeside on a breezy day.  Frustrated that his toy boats were repeatedly knocked over, he asked Mother to stop the wind.  She wanted to oblige her son’s naïve wish but she had to admit that even Mother couldn’t stop the wind.  These many years later, the son is the wind and it is Mother who wants to pin it down, just for a second, to capture the foregone moments that are now only distant memories.

Someday, too soon, Mother will stop travelling the path and come to rest for the last time.  If he is not careful, son may wander too far ahead and regret his absence from the transition.  But today he has a choice.  He could sit a spell with Mother, as difficult as it is, and try to see the world through her eyes for a change – just as she did for him all those years.  Or he could choose to carry Mother a few paces so she could be part of his world.  Both choices will require a concession on the son’s part.

The son’s choice will not change the final destination.  The path was carved long ago for him and his mother.  But his decision will change the journey, and the journey is what matters.  Mother taught him that.

Perhaps the boy chooses well.  Or not.  Mother and son cannot know what the next day will bring. Every day is a different chapter in the story.  The only thing that is certain is that mother loves son, and son loves mother, no matter what happens on the path.

%d bloggers like this: