Tag Archives: fatherhood

T@B Diaries #2: Stubb Stewart St. Park

  • in which Michael almost gives up on the trip before calling neighbor Dave to help him hitch up the trailer to the stupid van
  • in which Michael and his son Emerson and their new dog Tana embark on the first father-son-dog trip with the T@B
  • in which it snows and rains a lot, but still opportunities occur for long walks with the dog, dog park action, and even a few solitary moments
  • in which Michael gets along with his son swimmingly, but is bugged by how easily he is bugged and wishes he could stop
  • in which Michael, late on a January night way too cold and wet for a campfire, turns his son on to the X-files

Here’s a late posting of a blog entry I started to write way back in January after my son and I went on our first camping trip together with the T@B. I wrote the little blurby-blurb thing above but never got around to fleshing it out and posting pictures from our lovely little winter trip to L. L. Stubb Stewart State Park.

I don’t know if there’s anything else to say that isn’t neatly and concisely expressed in the above blurb bullets, but I do want to attach some pictures for general perusal and make a promise that I will be better and more timely about posting entries in the T@B Diary series for whoever might be interested. This memorial day, next weekend, we have planned our next trip!  Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the Jarmer boys and their dog.

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#143: The Silent Note-Writing Game

The Silent Note-Writing Game

I don’t know how we landed on the idea.
Perhaps chaos of the 9 year old variety
inspired me to propose a game in which
we must be silent and can only communicate
through written notes to each other
back and forth on a shared
piece of paper or two. He loved it.
And in the last few days, months after
the first time we played, he’s saying,
Daddy, let’s play the silent note-writing game.
And so, tonight, sitting in a dark room
at his desk under a lamp, we take turns
writing and we have a silent conversation
on the page. There is talk tonight of
how fun this is, and questions about why
sometimes I don’t want to play, an agreement
about how anything, no matter how fun,
sometimes requires the right mood, the right space.
He asks me why I write like I do, all left-handed,
with improper pencil placement, upside-down like,
and I tell him that’s just the way I learned,
despite how my teachers tried to correct me.
We talk about his Skylander characters and
their various powers and skills, how some
of them are mommies or daddies and
sons and daughters. He farts, writes about that,
then erases it. I write about the view of oak trees
out his bedroom window. He turns on his microscope,
finally, and we look at some slides of leaves
and pollen and it’s too fascinating and so we
break the rules for awhile to ooh and aww over
the majestic microscopic, the immense
complexities beyond the power of the naked eye
after the inexplicable joy and intimacy
of speaking without voices. I say,
there’s a poem in here somewhere.

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Filed under Parenting, Poetry

#48: Learning to Ride

Learning to Ride

He’s seven, reluctant to ride independently,
most of his classmates far ahead on two wheels,
which has not been a problem for him, so he says.
No, I’m scared, he has said.  No, I like the scooter better, he has said.
I will never ride a bike, he has said.  Never, he repeats, for emphasis.
But there was something about Dad saying this would be the summer.
And today was the day.  Dad has no worries or anxieties, really,
about his boy’s slow and reluctant approach to two-wheel independence,
only a sense of the importance of this step, of marking out
this particular summer as one in which something
great is accomplished.  So Dad says, Let’s get the bike out of the garage
and remove those clunky training wheels.
Let’s practice on the grass, so if you fall, it will not hurt.
And that was enough.  A few false starts, awkward
on the browned-out lawn, pedals uncompromising
and stubborn, lots of tipping, a failed attempt to lower the seat,
some awkward pokes to the groin area and some dramatic escapes
from the tumbling cycle.  But really, after only about ten minutes of this,
the first independent ride, short-lived, ending in collapse, but no injuries.
And then, Dad, not wanting to let this moment escape, produces
his phone for a rare captured moment.  He begins filming,
the boy mounts the saddle, Dad steadies the bike and begins to push
until the boy says, Daddy, let go–and Daddy lets go.
The boy makes a complete circle on his bike, independently,
in the yard, and you can see it on his face and hear it in his
father’s voice, a kind of triumph, a vibe of victory, the purest
kind of pride.  On the boy’s part, a sheepishness, as if to admit
much ado about nothing, but an unwillingness to let go of that innocence,
the baby boy who needs the training wheels.  And Dad, really,
on the verge of tears, a great emotion welling up inside,
for the accomplishment of the feat, yes, the tackling of one more
rite of passage, but of fear, too, and sadness, for the boy
who sets off and keeps on pedaling farther and farther away.

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Filed under Parenting, Poetry

Of Fatherhood: The Most Difficult Job Ever Invented

Outside of motherhood, that is.  The way I see it, the three most difficult jobs ever invented, in this order, are motherhood, fatherhood, and teaching in an underfunded public school.  I’ve taken on two out of three.  I find fatherhood exceedingly difficult and this perturbs me.  Whose big idea was it in the first place, inventing fathers?  They’re inefficient.  They’re inconsistent. They don’t know what they’re doing most of the time. They’re trapped in patterns of behavior or responses to behavior that betray their better selves and butt up against what they believe.  They allow 7 year olds to the get the better of them. Some fathers have three college degrees and still–the 7 year olds get the better of them. They can be even-keeled, relatively mellow individuals, and be put often in a state of utter frustration, moral or emotional devastation, and sometimes blind fury–by a 7 year old.

Why is this?  Why can’t it be easier? And here’s the creepy part of it.  Growing up in the world, having been a 7 year old once themselves, perhaps, having become teens, young adults, and  men, accumulating years and years and years of being fathered and watching fathers, either they don’t remember or they never see the kind of difficulty I’m speaking about.  And no one ever discusses it.  Not once did I ever hear my father or my older brothers say about fatherhood, “Man, this is hard, maybe the hardest thing ever.”  I think, if someone would have said that to me, I would have listened, and maybe I would have done some studying over the subject. It’s like a kind of conspiracy–one that was perhaps crucial to the evolution and survival of the species, because, if fathers talked openly to other potential fathers about how difficult the job is, no one would ever take it up. That would be the end of us.  I guess I’m glad my grandfather never had the opportunity to tell my dad how difficult fatherhood had been for him before he keeled over mowing the lawn and died. I might not be here today to have such difficulty being a father.

I recently blogged about a project I’m participating in with my students to follow Benjamin Franklin’s lead to become, by conscious, deliberate effort, morally perfect.  It’s not going well for me.  And TRANQUILITY, number 11 on Franklin’s list, is the virtue that I find most severely lacking this week, especially in relation to–actually only in relation to–fatherhood.  I want to go one day without losing my cool with the resident 7 year old.  One day would be good.  It’d be a start. Listen, I am not a hot head.  Rarely do I get hot headed.  Only in the realm of fatherhood and in the presence of the resident 7 year old do I get hot headed.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t regret becoming a father.  Regret is a fool’s game. And despite the fact that my son is, for the most part, the only one I get physically and verbally angry at, I love him more than any other human being I have ever loved.  When it is good, I can find myself weepy with happiness at his beauty, his wit, his curiosity about the world, his budding bilingualism, his artistic streak, his lovely singing, his rare but heart melting tenderness. When it is  good, it’s really good (and first, I must confess, that it is good 80% of the time, and I’m sure that compared to many fathers on the planet I’ve got nothing to complain about); but when it is not good, it is bad, bad enough to bring a grown and relatively happy man to despair.  That despair is temporary; it passes–but it is about the most awful feeling I know and I wish there was a cure.  To my credit, perhaps, the reason I despair sometimes is simply because I give a shit.  I don’t want to be so lackadaisical about fathering as to become permissive, or to relegate my parenting to television and video games, or to simply walk away from the oppositional and sometimes nasty resident 7 year old, or to be oblivious, uncaring or dismissive about my own anger .  At bottom, and most terrifying, is the fear that the lesson won’t take, that he’ll become resentful, that the opposition will grow, that his teenage years will be just as difficult if not more so. This is a trap, too, I know, and I try diligently not to fall into it.

I have worked with teenagers every day of my real working life now for about 25 years.  It happens that sometimes they get under my skin, make me lose sleep, disturb my tranquility, make me angry, but it is rare, especially in comparison to the challenges presented by the resident 7 year old.  So, I take that as a sign that every year fatherhood will get easier and easier.  But I don’t have to live with the teenagers under my charge–so maybe it would be totally different and equally difficult if we were under the same roof on a permanent basis.  That’s not a happy thought.  It’s all relative, right? And most of it is dependent upon the kid and the family and the happiness quotient of both.  In the end, I imagine that all of this is the stuff that every parent and every father deals with to lesser or greater degrees, but most don’t talk about it, they keep it mum, they don’t let on, they put on the peachy-keen mask.  Parenting is hard, fatherhood is hard.  As is everything that is worthwhile doing, I suppose. I know I can’t be the perfect parent.  I just want to be better.  But I want it to get easier, too, which is, in a way, lame.  I’d prefer it to get easier than to have to develop new skills for the difficult stuff. Somebody, tell me it gets easier, or, tell me I will get better at this most challenging work.

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Filed under Parenting, Self Reflection, Teaching