Friday, February 18, 2011

Me & Them

Being a dad has turned me into a hypocrite of sorts.

I look fondly back at the things I did -- enjoyed, and yet I shelter my own boys from many such experiences.

On one hand a wish they could experience the kind of freedom I had as a kid, but then I am the very person who most often denies them those freedoms.

I sometimes think I'm doing them a  disservice, sheltering them too much, I fear they will not know how to deal with "real word" situations and yet I take pride that at 10 and 8 they think of FART as the F word.

I think of the childhood they are having in comparison to my own and wonder how different a person I would be had I been raised with the advantages they have.

Now I'm not saying I had a bad childhood. I en joyed my days as a carefree kid allowed to roam the entire southeast side of Amarillo. Yeah my vocabulary included words no mother wants their son to say, but I had sense to know not to deploy an F Bomb within earshot of an adult. Except that one time, when we were trying to get out the door to church and my mom was yelling at me to hurry, and I was trying to tie my shoe, and my older brother kept pushing me over over time I knelt to grab the laces. I'd had enough, so I screamed at him, "LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!"

That was the first time my mom had ever heard me curse. I was all of nine or so, but I was wily. So when she asked where I learned such language I paid my brother back by innocently smiling and pointing at him. He was about 15 at the time and caught an earful all the way to church.

But by far the biggest difference between my boys and I is myself.

I take an active role in their life -- My dad never did.

He was a salesmen, traveling and otherwise) and therefore rarely home. Even when in town he wasn't home. He liked to gamble. And he liked Canadian Whiskey even more. Except for hunting and fishing expeditions we spent very little time together. The same is actually true to this day.

When he was home he and my mother fought. Vigorously.

I do not believe my boys have ever heard Jennifer or I raise our voices at each other.

I have no memories of my parents together when one or both were not screaming at the top of their lungs.

My mom took care of me. But she had to work to do so. that meant there were things I simply had to take care of by myself. Well, in theory my brother was around, but he never was blessed with much in the way of common sense so I pretty much fended for myself.

People say divorce has a profound impact on kids lives. For me the actual event had next to no impact.

My dad never had been around much. Matter of fact I didn't even know my parents were divorced until one day my mother took me out for pizza. As we were walking in, a lady was walking out." She looked at my mom and said, "I haven't seen you in years. How are you."

It was standing there, while not so patiently waiting to go inside and scarf down some peperoni pizza that I heard my mom say these words, "Oh no. I divorced him nearly three years ago."

I was nine or ten at the time and only when my mom added, "I don't think I'll ever get married again," did I realize she was talking about my dad.

True to her word she hasn't. Nor has my dad.

Once I got old enough and they no longer had reason to see each other or speak they quit fighting. That is not to say they like each other. They do not. I believe their dislike for one another has only festered through the years. To my knowledge they have not breathed the same air or shared a phone conversation in nearly two decades.

So it was quite funny the day my oldest son stared straight into my mom's eyes and said, "Meme, you should meet my Grandpa sometime. I think you'd like him."

I was unable to hide my grin at her chocked expression. After a moments pause my mom answered, "I've met him thank you very much."

That was three or four years ago and my son still cannot fathom that they once lived together as man and wife. He cannot comprehend that not everyone loves each other forever as promised.

I'm proud that Jennifer and I have provided a steadfast example for him but I'm nothing if not a realists and I fear both my boys will discover some of these things the hard way.

So tell me about your childhood and how it differs from the way your own kids are being raised.


Hilary said...

I can only imagine the look on your mother's face when your little guy made that suggestion. Too funny. I

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Sounds like you're a great Dad. And you know what? We all learn stuff the hard way. That's how people roll.

texlahoma said...

I was somewhat overprotected as a child, by the standards back then.

But standards change, by age 11 or 12 I could go anywhere on 160 acres (actually more because I could go on to other peoples land too) by myself with my .22 rifle, I could camp out overnight with my friends, it was great. My parents got along pretty well, no cuss words were spoken except in times of extreme emotion, like when my dad was working on a car.

The f word thing reminded me of when my son was about 4, he said "I know what the f word is." I said "What is it?"
He said "Butt".
(I didn't correct him.)

I guess the main difference in upbringing was, as they got older I was as honest with them as I possibly could be, I didn't try to protect them from the truth, like my parents did.
My son and daughter are basically grown up now, they survived and are fairly happy. That's about all a parent could ask for.

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for sharing this! I really enjoyed it - very thoughtful and thought provoking.

Trust your boys! If and when your sons discover their family secrets (and don't we all have these things rattling in the wardrobe!!), I just know they'll cope ok cos they've got a great mum and dad to be there for them!

:-) Take care

Rocketstar said...

Great post hombre. We have much in common in our parenthood ways. For me, I shelter more than I was because I fear they may not have the same power of self-discipline that I was lucky enough to get somehow. I want to guard against that scenario and I appear blind to whether they have it or not.

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

I was overprotected as a child to the point of being totally smothered. If my mother could have wrapped me up in bubble wrap to protect me from life, she would have. It still affects me to this day - - and I think that's about all I want to say about it.....

I love reading your posts about things you do with your sons. You and your wife should be very proud of yourselves; you are being a good, positive force in your son's lives, and they will greatly benefit from all your efforts. Keep up the good work.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

This post made me all smooshy. I love to hear about people who take what wasn't an ideal upbringing and rather than bitch and moan about it, they choose to not repeat those mistakes.

I don't have my own children, but I plan to model my parenting on my sister, not my parents. She's already doing exactly what we always swore we'd do: be there for our kids, put them first, and above all, make sure they know they're loved.

My real dad split when I was 2 months old and while he's since worked his way back into the peripheral of my life, it's something that never goes away.

Donna K. Weaver said...

You go, Travis! Learn from your parents' mistakes. My father's dad was physically abusive and had the nerve to bring a floosie that he'd picked up at a bar home with him--home to the house where he lived with my grandmother. My 16-year-old father laid him out and commanded that he never do anything like that again. My father made sure not to carry on the ugly tradition of abuse.

Good on you and your wife. In the end your children will have to make their own choices, but at least you've modeled exactly that for them--choice. When they see something else, they'll always be able to remember there's another way.

Phats said...

I think it sucks that kids today we have to be so much more careful with, this world what's it coming to, I remember walking all over our town you can't really do that anymore. I like that you dropped the FBombs at an early age haha

I can't wait to catch my son sneaking in and out of his bedroom window in Jr High/HS like I did! Hoping you'll do my bracket contest again :) Huskers have a shot of going dancing

the walking man said...

I had no childhood to speak of and my kids are almost your age so their childhood was whatever it was you'd have to ask them.

Jenn Jilks said...

Excellent, thoughtful post, Travis!
I was adopted by parents who remained married for 59 years till 'death do us part!'
I was divorced after 16 years.
My eldest is a wonderful woman, an angel, in a terrific marriage, to a man who also was a child of divorce!

I understand what you say about running wild.
I was talking to a hospice client who explained he'd disappear in the bush of Lanark County for three days, as a teen, hunting and on his own, no sleeping bag, surviving in the wild. Those were the days!

Megan Bostic said...

Great post Travis. My parents are still married. It's going on 46 years now. After 17 years, I'm going through a divorce. My parents rarely fought in front of us. I know my kids were witness to at least a couple major blow outs. So, now the kids are going back and forth by the week, they don't have all the luxuries I had when I was a kid, but they love life. They're much stronger and more secure then I was as a kid. That's for sure.

Charles Gramlich said...

The part about 'meeting grampa some time" was certainly hilarious. I unfortunately, probably didn't give my son a 'better' upbringing than my own. It was different and I was always there for him, while my own dad died when I was 13. But my childhood was almost idillyic when I look back on it now.

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

There's a story in there somewhere about the comment your little boy made to your mum. :0)

I think the best we can do as parents is to give our children time.

Sounds like you have a lovely family.

andrea frazer said...

Nice post. I am sorry that your childhood was less than idlyic, but how awesome you and Jennifer have found a way to provide stablity for your kids.

I had a great childhood, honestly. It sounds awesome, but I was over protected in many ways. I was ill prepared for the responsibilities of parenting - especially parenting a child with special needs. I am honestly, on some days, flat lined. I just want to hide under the covers and get up only when someone brings me a hot cup of coffee.

But since it's not about me - it's about my kids - I am determined to not give into self pity and just do the best I can.

Like you, I have a spouse who loves the heck out of me and doesn't put up with my self-pity long. I'm lucky and so are my kids.

Thank you for a lovely post.

alex keto said...

Hey Travis,
I wouldn't worry about it. Your kids will get up to more than enough that you don't know about because they'll work 24/7 to make sure you don't know about it. It's what every generation does.
What bothers me about current times is the extremely punitive attitude of most institutions such as schools with their so-called "zero tolerance" approaches. Zero tolerance is just another way of saying zero common sense.
A friend was telling me in front of my son about how he blew a urinal off the wall of his high school with an M-80. My son thought it was a cool story (actually so did I) until I had to tell him that if he did it now, he'd be arrested for sure and probably on a charge of terrorism.
In a year or two, I'll have to have the "do what the cop says" talk. We can always get a lawyer, but you can't get a new life if he blows you away.

Jan Mader said...

Thank God's for life's lessons. As bad as it was you turned something negative into something positive. Your father's loss was your kid's gain.....

You made it happen. Others would have followed in their father's footsteps.

Childhoods can make or break us....