Paternal Joy And Pain
My paternal ego instincts kicked into supersensitive high gear the other day. As a brand new first time pa at the tender age of late forties, and as a man whose relationship with his own father was kept in a condition euphemistically referred to as unnourished, I have always been aware of how fragile a healthy relationship to my son, and his well being can be. So I want to be sure that I make sure that my son will be sure he can count on me, talk to me, come to me whenever he feels he’s having a crisis in his life, no matter how trivial I think it might be. So whenever I see him I am reaching out to him.
And he is so secure in his relationship with me that he’ll bat my hand away as he rushes right past me and heads for his mother. And truth be told, every time he chooses to pass up on an opportunity to help affirm daddy’s sense of self worth, it’s like one of those Klingon daggers to my heart. If you’re a Star Trek fan you know what I’m talking about. It’s a mechanical dagger. So after it penetrates the skin and sinks deep into the tissue underneath, the wielder pushes a button on the handle and a secondary set of blades pop out to slice into the surrounding flesh and make the knife impossible to remove without causing serious damage. Yep, that’s just how I feel when my soon to be three year old rebuffs my affection.
Father’s Day is no help. Ms. Peacemaker will give him the Father’s Day card, drag him to within about three feet of me, and tell him to give me the card. Now I’m looking at him standing literally just two of his tiny steps away from me hoping that he’d have enough compassion for his old man to toss me a bone and give me the card. Instead, he’ll throw the card on the floor and run out the room. I’ll laugh. I’ll do a lame ventriloquist act, throwing my voice and sounding as if I’m the baby and say, Sucker! But damn his hide! Don’t he know he’s killing me!
My son has a much older brother. Young Peacemaker and I have been in the same house for the past four years and I make it a point not to push myself on him. I try to be a positive male role model for him. But like many teenagers recently graduated from high school with a computer, Young Peacemaker would prefer to spend his time alone and doesn’t share many interests with most adults. We don’t talk about much. In exchange for a room and board he does chores around the house. I encourage him to go to school and to get a job and think about the future and the contributions he would like to make to the house, the community, and to the world. He does his best to keep it simple.
And as hard as I might, I try not to compensate for the lack of interaction with my son, by trying to force myself on Young Peacemaker. But dude is so nonchalant about our relationship that I doubt if he would care if I fell off the earth tomorrow. In many respects, he’s just like his little brother. Now that I think about it, the two might be in cahoots to make me feel so inept at being a parent.
I know what you’re thinking. What triggered today’s tripe? Earlier this week, the misses and I went to lunch accompanied by baby boy. He sat across the table from me, right next to his mother. He was as handsome as any kid about to turn three has a right to be in his blue jeans and a light blue shirt with a cartoon lizard blazoned across the front. When it was time to go, his mother got up and put his coat on him. While she did that I pulled my coat off the back of my chair and put it on. When she finished putting on his coat, she turned to get her own coat. With her back turned I reached down to baby boy and offered him my hand. He actually started voicing his objection and started pulling on his mother’s leg. Not wanting to be one of those parents in the restaurant unable to control their kid I quickly put my hands in my pocket and just turned to start walking towards the exit.
The misses turned around and told me that he was upset because I walked away from him. I laughed. But emotionally, deep down, I couldn’t pull that mechanical dagger out of my heart. When we got outside I explained that I had reached for his hand and his reaction. I explained that he must’ve been complaining because he thought I was trying to pull him away from her. She said ridiculous, picked him up, and put him in my arms. He started to complain again. But before his protest could get too boisterous I started throwing him up in the air.
And then the most beautiful thing happened. He gave me a big grin and a smile. My heart melted and that knife slid out as if it was sliding out of hot butter. There was no wound left. That smile was all I needed to heal my heart. And deep inside, I was breaking my arms trying to pat myself on my back. Sometimes it feels like I live only to get one of my son’s beautiful smiles. And then other times, I know it.