Editor’s Note: Like we did on Memorial Day, if you have a photo of you and your child that you would like me to post here, please email it to JohnBurton@Ivy-StyleMediaGroup.com. I will post them today, tomorrow, and Saturday as they come in.
That’s my daughter, Gramercy, asleep a few days ago after one of her harder days as a teenager. That’s Daddy Bear, a Brooks bear I gave her when she was born. Because imprinting is a thing.
I have learned. Fatherhood is part Benjamin Button. On the day your child is born, you are the oldest and most sage you will ever be. As they age you grow younger until at some point in their teens you have reverted to childhood and they have passed you in wisdom and physicality. In a few decades she may have to walk me and feed me.
But it is also not Benjamin Button because that old, sage Source you were on day one? You will be called back into duty, sir. There will be lies and crashes and you must respond when called. Which sounds like an obligation but is not. It is a gift, the opportunity of being leaned against. It’s a gift because it is black light on the trace evidence of all that it good about you.
Man, it shows you your frailties. I wish I never got sick so I had more money for her now. I wish I had her a little earlier maybe because I don’t want to die on her too soon. I wish I paid attention to high school geometry so I didn’t have to post her homework on my Facebook page for help from strangers. Ok, I am not at all certain my paying attention in high school geometry would have actually made a difference in what I know about geometry. I wish I had looked up my biological parents so she had grandparents on my side, and other places to go on holidays. I wish I could stay up later, and I wish I had found the right church for her on my first try. If you are a father who looks at themselves every weakness becomes critical – not because you can’t live with them (you have been already) but because now they are short-changing your baby.
Being a father shows you that you never grow up. You get a kid, and the first thing you do is the first thing you did on the first day of school in first grade. You look around to see who has this mess figured out so you can do what they did. Being a father makes you lonely, when you realize there ain’t anybody who figured it out and you are going to have to think for yourself.
I was in therapy once, with a psychologist who wanted to drill back to my childhood and blame my sadness on the fact that I didn’t have full time parents. I remember him saying to me, “Everybody needs a father, no matter how old you are.” What he didn’t say is, “And, John, one day you will be a father to someone who will always need a father, and you will realize how little you know about it, and that will make you ask why YOU still need a father if no one knows much, and how life is on some level all of us just reaching up in the hope that a stronger smarter hand is reaching down.”
Of course, if he had said that I would have shaved years off of my therapy and he would have not had such a nice car. Timing is the key to a lot.
When Gramercy was born, I was doing turnaround for a high end residential construction firm (EVERY residential construction firm says they are high end, but we really were – the smallest house we built was 8,200 square feet). I worked every trade for two weeks so I could at least have some boots on the ground feel for what they did. At the time, I was working electrical (helping, not doing the actual wiring, you need a license to be an electrician but I drove and fetched things and bought lunch). I remember one of the electricians standing in the middle of a huge house saying, “All this, John? Doesn’t matter. Your baby doesn’t want this. The only thing she wants, and the only thing she will ever want, is some of you.” That was wisdom.
There are some Ivy lessons she already knows. The care you take in the presentation of yourself matters. THAT she has down. I have had full workdays shorter than the time it takes her to shower. Education is a gift, she knows that. She goes to school in a tremendous district because her mother teaches there, and I get the vibe that she is grateful for that. Dignity. The dignity she gives is an embarrassment of riches. She works from the foundation of total equality regardless. OF ANYTHING. And goes from there. That might be her super power. If you don’t count buying clothes she is not allowed to wear to school.
There are Ivy things I am trying to teach her that are not sticking with her yet. Hard work. She is bright enough to pull 90’s without really working at it, which sound like an advantage and I suppose it is. It is always an advantage to be able to jump 3 feet in the air until you come up to a 4 foot wall. The pursuit of excellence. She’s still looking around for something to spend 10,000 hours on. That the best instruments are unplugged and that the best musicians play unplugged instruments.
Wait, that might be my own agenda. Sorry.
So yeah, it is challenges and failings and insecurities and aging backwards. But you know what is good? When you are somewhere, and you see a dad with his kid, and he sees you with yours, and you both know exactly where each other’s head is in that moment. It is one of the rare true shoulder to shoulder moments. It is a good feeling to line up with other dads and say (nonverbally*) that I might forget this feeling when the Red Sox come on but for now I just want to be a better guy and I want the world to be a better place… for my kid.
*nonverbally because we are dads…
This worked great on Memorial Day, so I thought we could try it again. Email me a picture of you and your child, I think it would be a great Father’s Day present to have a place to go where you can see other fathers – being good fathers.