Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Changes...

Sitting on my new balcony, overlooking the large swimming pool, a gurgling fountain and surrounded by tropical fauna I collect my thoughts and begin to write.  I absentmindedly reach to my pocket for a cigarette where there are none. Overhead the cloudy, Florida night is punctuated by stars and interrupted by tall pines shifting sleepily in the warm breeze. I hear the barely noticeable white noise of my children’s monitor, motorcycles cruising along the highway, the chatter and splashes of swimmers and a few muted conversations of my new neighbors.

There have been quite a few changes in my life over the past several months and I reflect quietly on them while taking in a deep breath of the breeze tinted with chlorine and the memory of the sea. The monitor buzzes steadily indicating my children, my loves, have given in on their battle with sleep though they will live to fight another day. Laundry is done, well as done as it ever it is in my home, with 3 loads neatly folded and hung and one in the chamber, ready for a quick toss if needed. I fed the children, cleaned up after, helped with homework and even had time for a quick vacuum of the living room interstate. The surface streets can wait for the weekend.

A few dishes in the sink, a stray ant or 5 scrambling for food on the counter that isn’t as clean as the former at-home Dad within me would like, but all in all the “new normal” isn’t that bad. Two homes, two sets of beds, two jobs and two holiday calendars mark the odd multiplication that results from a family’s division. VV and I are co-parents of a different sort now and I have been back at work for nearly a year.

No apologies are needed, condolences are not appropriate. Two adults decided the best thing for our children was a home that didn’t include both of us. Reasons as old as time and as new as the pain of a paper-cut are to blame, but they won’t be rehashed in these here pages. Sure, there were periods of weeping and grieving. Heartbreak is never easy, no matter whose fault or how slow the burn leading up to it. Coming to terms with days where I don’t see the little ones, when I don’t get a hug and a kiss from either was not easy (for either of us, I’m sure).

I held my head high and stayed strong for Link and J Bean (at least when they were around) and I slowly came to terms with a new life.  A life I am feeling comfortable in, full of experiences and people I would not have known in my former station. Despite this, congratulations aren’t in order either. Life marches on and I am who I am because of what I have been through. There is no need for regret, for hatred or jealousy. I try to accept my shortcomings and those of others and let the pages turn. I’ve never been much for drafting an outline first, I tend to let the words and the shifting sands of time carry me where they will.

I’m forever grateful for the years I had the chance to spend as an at-home dad. I am better for the experience, more grounded in the lives of my children than I might have been otherwise. I benefited from the friends I made in circles I would not have traveled had my life taken another path. I’m thankful for the support and the interest of so many readers, friends and confidants. I hope to continue to contribute within these pages from time to time, but for right now I just want to stare at the sky, dream of the promise of tomorrow and talk to someone who thinks I am a better person than I am. Much love to all you parenting partners, keep fighting that good fight and if you find your world turned upside down? Well, I suggest you call over the little ones and stand on your head with them to see if it’s the world that has changed or if it was just you. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rebels With a Cause...

Because I said so...

Did I really just say that?

Are my demands for compliance without question really the goal of parenthood? Am I raising another brick in the wall; another round peg for every round hole? Does trying to do so more often than not result in a rebel without a cause?

More importantly, are the actions I take... the "ought to's" of parenting effective? What measure do I use?  At what point do I measure that outcome? Is a 2 year old who says please and thank you the goal? Or am I shooting for a 26 year old who can feed and clothe himself while not ending up in prison?

Maybe I'm trying to raise a better parent than I am.

Perhaps, it's not so important they listen to me (or anyone) without question and it's more crucial they be independent and comfortable going against the flow.

I've seen the the white water rapids of a group of teenagers pulling everyone along toward a waterfall and hidden dangers. I've rolled down that river myself. Learning to take a few strokes against the current of social rules and peer pressure is probably a valuable skill for a child learn... so how do we teach it?

It is difficult to remember the world view we present our children is not just in the words and lessons we teach with purpose, but in the guidance we offer through our actions (often inadvertantly). Will my desire to be unquestioned expand their horizons and their potential, or limit their ideas and confine their goals? Am I willing to answer that question?

What about the other people they come across? When a person tells my daughter this activity is for boys or tells my son those toys are for girls I want them to question the assertion. When someone offers a ride to an underage keg party and it seems everyone is going, I want them to decide for themselves if that is a good choice, because I won't be there.

I am the parent and I hold some authority, there is no avoiding the arrangement, but I don't have to squech their desires to know the "why's" and the "how comes." I don't have to silence their objections. It's not my goal to raise subserviant children, I want them to grow up to be capable, introspective and independent adults.

Being "like everyone else" may be easier in some ways for children and doing what they're told everytime certainly would make parenting a more pleasant endeavor. On the other hand, we should not forget to rejoice in the rebels and the rabble-rousers. I don't want to raise a rebel without a cause, but I do hope to raise discerning, skeptical children who see much cause in this world to rebel against.

Here's to you Link and J Bean, may you break all the rules (well, some of the rules) and challenge the status quo, may you not always take the easy way out, may you sometimes make other's uncomfortable with your individuality and may we always remember that you are the rebels with a cause we raised.

I want to keep you from harm, so my rules and your ideas of freedom will often clash, but I want you to know that somewhere behind my inevitable scolding and angry face is a jagged bit of pride stuck in my throat.