Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have five children whom I love dearly. They are all wonderful, and I feel fortunate to be their dad or J-Dawg as the case may be. Yet, 80% of these human beings, that I correctly identify as my children, have informed me at one point or another that life might be better without me.
I’ve often heard other parents with hurt and pain say words like, “Oh my God, my son told me he hated me and can’t wait to move out!” I always respond the same way, “80% of my children have at some point threatened the same or informed me in some way that I was unworthy of their love. Don’t worry, if he leaves, he’ll be back.”
You can put “she” into the above sentences instead of “he.” I’m not intending to be sexist. In my experience, of course, not a scientific study, this seems to be an equal opportunity threat.
A-Man once jabbed his finger at me and yelled in my face, “I’m going to prove you wrong, old man!!” “Old man,” if I were an “old man” then, while in my forties, what am I now at sixty-one, an early hominid, maybe a Neanderthal or a Cro-mag. My ninth grade football coach called me a Cro-mag when I was fourteen, maybe he was on to something or maybe he just thought I was stupid.
But my son, I think he meant my type was extinct. I was simply a member of a now defunct human clade related in lineage to the great apes: chimps, orangutans or gorillas, a specimen for The Museum of Natural History on the verge of extinction.
“These are the bones of an as yet unclassified hominid. He can stand erect; he can bipedal; he can make and use tools. However, this homind’s brain is not fully developed or he would not have classified his son as a ‘loser.'” Back to the words of my ninth grade football coach, perhaps?
I did call A-man a loser; I admit it. Perhaps not my strongest parenting moment, but I felt he was starting to “piss” his life away at either eighteen or nineteen years of age.
So I used my mostly unsuccessful craps table strategy to motivate him, I bet the “house” on our relationship and “ripped” him apart in order to move him to a new path in life. Afterwards, I had to pull my car over on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike so I could cry about how mean I had been to my son and hope that I did not push him further away.
Only God knows whether I was successful or not in my tirade. But A-Man more importantly was an outstanding Marine (maybe it was the Corp that turned him around) is successful as a father, husband and sibling. He is a good man and does well with his job. I presume he has forgiven me because we have a great relationship.
Jack was a little guy when he decided to run away from home. He loaded his important clothes, except what he was wearing into his red wagon. He was wearing his Superman underoos, his blue towel/cape with the red letter “S” for Superman on it and his white stretch sport socks to serve as his Superman boots.
It was sweet, he was wearing the Superman cape I had sewn for him so he and I could play “Lex Luthor battles Superman.” Jack was always Superman, and I always let him win our battles, which I believe was my mistake in this instance. He threw me around the room, drilled me with violent punches and then proudly stood with one foot on my stomach, one foot on the ground and a fist in the air to designate himself the winner while I lay sprawled and exhausted on the floor appearing cowardly and belittled. I believe I encouraged him to be worldly cocky.
I corrected this later when we played knee football on the living room carpet. I never let him be Mr. Touchdown.
Jack then placed his favorite toys in the wagon on top of his clothes and pulled his wagon and his stuff to the top of the “black diamond” thirty step stair case that led from my wife’s and my second floor apartment to the the two heavy doors below that led to the sidewalk. I wondered why he wasn’t taking any food or beverage. But who was I to suggest? I was mean, and he just didn’t want to live with me anymore because I was mean.
He gazed from the top of the “black diamond” stairs to the first floor below and silently stared. I empathetically told him, as he waited for me to tell him not to run away, to be careful out there on the streets; I would miss him and that perhaps he could lift his wagon into the air, fly down the stairs, break through the doors and onto the street below. Another great parenting moment for me!!
Jack didn’t run away. I’m glad about that, and he is now a very successful father, husband, sibling, lawyer and a loyal son. He is also a good man. Again, perhaps it was the Marine Corp.
Danny called me specifically one day to tell me that she didn’t need people like me in her life. We had had an argument where I had taken a tough position with her, one with which she intensely, emotionally and intellectually disagreed.
As usual, I could have been wrong in my position and earned the right to not be in her life, but I was worried about her on that day. However, there is a time when a dad should shut his mouth, and allow a child to choose his/her own destiny. Of, course, I did not shut mine. Another of my star studded parenting moments.
She ignored me for weeks and wouldn’t take my calls. However, she was unfortunate, by this time I knew she’d be back so I was even less concerned about my obvious lack of parenting ability than I had been with her brothers. In spite of this incident, she has been a wonderful daughter and sister. She is one of my favorite human beings. She is graduating from college this year.
Mylo, well I made her sit in the chair for acting up. She sat in that chair with her angry pouty face (no tears) without any concern about me or her behavior. She simply accepted the fact that since I was bigger, I could make her sit in the chair. When I asked her if she were ready to get down from the chair and continue playing, she arose and defiantly yelled at me so I smacked her in the butt and returned her to the chair.
Another glorious parenting moment according to all the current parenting literature about corporal punishment. In response to my behavior, she stared at me from that chair and crushed my feelings when she growled and snarled, “I don’t love you!” She withdrew her love, “Bam,” just like that, NO LOVE! Like I wasn’t used to that by now. I laughed again.
In Greek literature there is Achilles the Swift Footed, Agamemnon the Wide-Ruling, Aphrodite daughter of Zeus, Calypso the Goddess most Divinely Made and Mylo the Defiant One.
Thank God her sister Bella the Peace Maker (with tears) saved the day by shouting, “Mylo, don’t say that, it isn’t true!” I laughed still harder; an Oscar winning parenting moment to be sure, defined as laughing at your children’s feelings.
Thank God Mylo didn’t know to call DYFS (The Division of Youth and Family Services), or she might have been removed from the home. Twenty-first Century America, a country where the state disciplines the parents and parents don’t or are not permitted to discipline their children.
Mylo and Bella are two beautiful young teenaged girls who still go places and do things with me even though, I’m an uncool, gross father.
In spite of me, I have wonderful children, and people ask me all the time to tell them what I did to help my children become so nice and successful. I loved them and interacted with them all through their lives and, of course, when they created bad parenting opportunities, I was present to intercede and become THE BAD PARENT.