Friday, June 4, 2010

Defining Dad

Defining Dad
June 25th, 2001

I'm on the verge of a huge change. I'm going to become all-powerful and completely vulnerable, all knowing and a total fool. I'm going to become a dad. In October. Yesterday is the last Father's Day that will go by that I won't feel slighted because no one called me.

I'm gonna be a dad.

So I've been thinking about this thing. We don't know the gender so I switch back and forth between imagining a son and imagining a daughter. Which is weird. Everything changes in subtle ways based on which sex I pick. Like my future snaps from light pink to light blue and back again.

I've been thinking about how to be a dad. How I'm gonna be a dad. And I've been imagining the whole thing. And at the same time I've been watching myself think about being a dad. Like I come up with a mental picture of how I want it to be and then I look at the mental picture and I think "What moron drew that picture?".

See when I think about how I'm gonna be a dad I completely contradict myself. Like I'm gonna spend all my time with my kid and I'm gonna spend all my time making lots of money so he or she will never want for anything and I'm gonna spend all my time following my dreams because I'm not gonna be one of those people who changes his lifestyle completely when they have kids.

And I'm gonna keep my life simple. Have lot's of free time.

And I'm gonna encourage my daughter or son to do sports and I'm gonna encourage my son or daughter to study the sciences and I'm gonna encourage my child to be arty but I'm gonna let them find their own way and support them in everything they do and not pressure them but make sure they always excel in everything….if they want. But I won't be one of those Dads that expects too much.

And I'll be firm and soft and hard and gentle and strict and forgiving and consistant and flexible and funky and stogie and cool and warm and hot and cold and big and little and up and down.


And I look at these pictures in my head and I realize that what I'm imagining is all about solving the problems of my own childhood. Like I'm all concerned about making sure my kid doesn't have a sucky time in Junior High. Like that's possible. And I'm doing a lot of thinking about how my kid is gonna not be overweight but is gonna have a healthy self image. It's all about imagining how my kid is going to get to live my life without making the mistakes that I made.

And that's completely impossible!

It won't be my life, it'll be his or hers or whatever.

Then I think about my father, and his father before him.

My grandfather was born in 1901 by the banks of the Saint Lawrence river in the woods. There were no cars or airplanes. No electricity or phones. Just trees to chop down and crops to plant and harvest and winters to survive.

He married my grandmother because her house was across the river and was the only other house for miles.

My father was born in 1933, the second youngest of 7 in a Canadian French catholic family. In the middle of the great depression the family would do anything to survive. Picking potatoes in northern Maine or blueberries in Connecticutt. Finally my grandfather got a good, steady job in the Scott Paper Mill in Winslow Maine and my dad grew up there. FDR was president until he was 13 years old. There were no televisions or computers or internet or cel phones. There was no pornography and no sex. At least in Maine. At least according to my father.

So the world has changed a lot since then. But my dad raised me as best he could. Trying not make the mistakes his father had made, who was trying not to make the mistakes his father had made.

And that's what I was planning on doing.

But that's the mistake that they all made. I mean how do you raise a kid nowadays? Can somebody tell me? How can I prepare my child for the world? How can I be a good dad?

I mean check this out. Since I was born we've got cable TV in 1974, Personal Computers, Macintosh around 1984, World Wide Web in 1993, Cell Phones whenever, Palm Pilot last year or something.

My wife is due in October of this year. When my child is my age it will be the year 2036. Will we be on Mars? Will we all have automatic nanobots roaming through our bodies making us live forever? Will we have Video Phones jacked into our brains? Will there be any oxygen left or will we buy it at the store the way we buy water now?

What should I do to protect and provide and prepare this child, who will be the hope of my hopes and the dream of my life? At least that's what their telling me. And I'm beginning to get a vague idea what that means

I guess the only answer is to love the darn thing as hard as I can and just do my best. No matter how much I screw up I can't get fired and no matter how good a job I do I'm not gonna get a raise.

And maybe, 35 years from now, my child will call me up after missing the first 34, like I did yesterday and say. Hey dad. Happy Father's day. I love you.

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