As I sit at my computer unable to sleep, thoughts circle around my brain as I contemplate another life changing event, the birth of my third child and first son.
I LOVE my two girls with all of my heart and soul, but having a son is different. As a father to girls, your job is straight forward. Chris Rock said it best:
“Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I’m talking to my daughter, I’m looking at her, I’m pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole.
“Keep my baby off the pole!
“I mean they don’t grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you fucked up.”
As a father to sons, the job is a bit more complicated . . . at least for me. You see, it is my firm belief that a son is the living image of his father, a sort of mirror that directly reflects what type of person the father is. If he is left unattended, I believe that a son will share the same successes and make the same mistakes as his father. Thus, our job in raising them is to pass down all of our good traits, if any, while attempting to mold them into everything we are not. The goal is to forge an image in our son that is everything we COULD have been.
My father was the immigrant son of a factory worker. He was rebellious towards authority to a fault, drank to excess, and was extremely unfocused, but he was also physically strong, mentally tough, and emotionally unflappable. He dropped out of high school, married young, divorced young, and was not yet ready to be a father when I was born. He was a patriot, serving in the Marine Corp, but also a knucklehead, serving some time behind bars (DUI’s, barfights). He missed out on much of my early adolescence because he was trying to find out exactly who he was, but then later stepped up to be the father that I needed as a disobedient and rebellious teenager.
His image is seen through me.
I am fortunate to have been passed his physical strength (I lettered 11 times in high school and played baseball in college on scholarship) and mental toughness (overcoming an impoverished childhood and some deep familial dysfunction). I followed his lead into the military. And, like him, I pride myself on my ability to withstand ungodly amounts of stress to perform effectively in whatever thing I am attempting. Yes, I too married young and became a father even younger. Also, I still have some problems with authority, but only because I am often right and they are often wrong 😉
More importantly though, I am also everything he is not. Not only did I finish high school, I finished college and then law school. I might have married young, but I am still happily married. I have never been arrested. I only drink on occasion. I am tirelessly focused and uncannily driven. And, I have been right there for every word, every step, every milestone in my daughters’ lives and don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
I hope the same for my son. I pray that he possesses my physical abilities, my passion, my drive, my confidence, and my unwavering principles. However, I also pray that I can instill in him the traits that I do not enjoy such as humility, the ability to take calculated risks and not just take risks for risk’s sake, better organization, temperance, and the ability to give an unguarded love to those around him that mean the most.
What scares me the most is a feeling of woefully inadequacy. Maybe this is a normal feeling for new fathers, but for a person who some have described as the most arrogant m-fer they have ever met, this type of uncertainty does not sit very well. Its amazing how an 8 lb bundle of flesh that shares some of your own DNA can cause you to question everything you have ever known about yourself.
My only solace from these doubts are the wise words from the person who made me the man I am today:
“If you love them with all your heart, never do less than your own best for them at all times, show faith in the face of adversity, and guide, but not push, them down life’s paths, your children will turn out greater than even you could have ever imagined.”–Hank J. Clarke, Sr.