Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Fathers' Day

"...We’ve thrown in rain,
we’ve thrown in darkness, once in March we
put on gloves under our gloves and threw in snow
and always to the soundtrack of our conversation,
a father and son’s seeds for a garden of love
I pray will bloom all seasons. ..."

From Ed Romond's Bald Spots, up today at YDP.

The thing that strikes me most today is how different my relationship with my kids is than the one I had with my father. That's partly a function of our respective generations, of course, but also a function of those unexplainable differences that make us all different. My father and I played a lot of baseball together when I was younger - a lot of golf when I was older - and it's not like I played those games reluctantly. But I was always aware that I was not driven the same way he was. I was always a little more joyful in the doing, a little less interested in the level of the achievement (after a point, that is - like him, I've always had the desire to do well anything I cared enough about to do at all).

Looking back at the defining moment in our relationship - the day I brought back to my parents' house a new car I had selected and paid for without their help - and how different our times together were after that, I begin to realize he was always pushing me to be "good enough". We may have had different definitions of that, but I see now that once he was convinced I would neither starve to death nor go bankrupt outside his care, all the (occasional) tension between us fell pretty much away.

Now, I know it's not that simple. Nothing is ever that simple, and the frosted lens of memory covers over many details that would complicate my conclusion. But the thought reminds me today of the father I want to be - the kind whose children are happy in the doing, who are able to do what they choose to do as well as they choose to do it, who are safe and know how to stay so, and who are able to find joy in their decisions. Baseball's not part of our repertoire; we're more likely to sit down at the piano together than go outside to play ball, but it's not really all that different than the way Ed sees things when he's with his son. It's just that our misunderstood imperfections are broken keys - "no music" spots, maybe - instead of the patches in Ed's lawn.


Here, by the way, are three things I think all fathers should share with their kids on Father's Day:
  • An activity they can do while laughing
  • A meal they can eat with their hands
  • A nap.

And so I'm off.

A Happy Fathers' Day to my many role models in the job.

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