I was talking to an older dad the other day, something I don't get to do often. As the radio droned, the conversation wandered to music; what we liked, what our parents liked. It then made a left turn into the unexpected: avoiding the moment that alienates you from your son.
With Jack so young, this isn't yet something I've experienced. But I knew exactly what the man was talking about. He told me that when he was 15, he shared some of "his" music with his father, a guitar player. The response was simply a dismissive, "I don't like the guitar in that." And in Older Dad's words, "That was it." It wasn't the entire war, for sure, but rather the last shot fired in it. The hard-to-describe affinity between father and son was at best, forever changed. At worst, it was broken.
The relationships between parents and children (between all of us, really) are so very fragile. And if you're paying attention, that little fact will scare the candy corn right out of you.
As I've discussed before, aiming a kid in the right direction is arguably the main goal of parenting. But in that discussion I assumed that naturally we'd all try to "aim" them well. A disturbing little tidbit I hadn't really thought of? That a father might even re-make the same mistake with his son... intentionally. As wholesome or hosed up as your particular childhood may have been, that's your yardstick. That's normal. With perhaps a bit of variation, we try to impose our own flavor of weird on ourselves, and on our kids, for good or ill. I'll spare you the obvious pop-psychology moment here.
You worry as a parent. It's a significant chunk of the job description. But I generally find myself worrying about the external. Things like horrific illnesses, car crashes, vampires, the living dead, kidnappers, vengeful
All this has been swirling around in my head for a week or so. I fear estranging Jack more than most of the ugly list above (except for the living dead). Not because those things are more likely to occur - they're probably not - but because I'm not sure I'll see the moment coming beforehand. I've said what I've said, and I see the bumper sticker of an awful moment as it rolls away from me. That's truly terrifying.
The news is not all bad. I did get some great take-away advice from Older Dad, which I'll share. Older Dad told his son recently, "Son, when you're 45 and your kid tries to talk you into [activity X], say yes." The son grinned and nodded. So there's hope for a future son.*
Notes from the week:
I. We took Jack to Old MacDonald's Farm on Saturday. Really, that's the name, I couldn't make this stuff up. It billed itself as a Pumpkin Patch (if you're not familiar, basically a photo op with squash). However, OMF was really more petting zoo, with El Capitan identifying Emus, llamas, bantam chickens, a horse, ducks and a calf as FMB. I mean, I guess a calf kinda looks like a dog...*I'm setting my alarm for 2021 right now.
II. We sauntered over to Trunk or Treat at church last night. The problem was that in some neighborhoods (ours) you wouldn't really want to let your kids just wander around trickertreatin'. In other neighborhoods, the guards wouldn't let us through the solid marble doric columns. The solution is as simple as it is ingenious: circle your cars in the church lot, pop the hatches, and sling candy like it's a controlled substance.
III. Jack has decreed that every object is a telephone. Everything gets held, not to his ear, but to the back of his neck (it's complicated) while he blurts, "Oh!" [Hello]. Yesterday, he decides that his snack is a phone, and I thought, "What a goofy kid, food isn't a phone. Duh." The food? An apple. NOW who's the idiot?