He’s 24 now. Quite a smart ass. Guess we don’t need a DNA test to know who his dad is😜:
“What would you like to do Sunday Father?”
“Hell, I don’t know. Nothing in particular.”
He didn’t respond to my indifference. I think, instead, perhaps, he accepted it as an honest answer from his father.
I don’t often think about what it means to be a father. Don’t know why, but expect there are many reasons. And, I suppose, rather than lame attempts at putting it into words, I simply prefer stories.
The greatest stories of humanity have led some brilliant minds to the notions of psychological “archetypes.” The mother protects and provides by gathering in. The father protects from a distance, in a sort opposite to gathering in – i.e., by pushing away.
Paternity: A parental paradox, participating in partly protecting and providing primarily by pushing.
It’s so cool to be a participant in this paradox.
I remember taking my toddler to a playground. The other kids playing there were strangers. So mine hung close to me, busying himself near my feet.
For a little while.
But curiosity is irresistible at that age, isn’t it?
Seated on a bench, I read my book, and could see him out of the corner of my eye looking at the other kids playing. Then back to his own task. Then back to them. Then up at me:) I didn’t have to take my eyes off the page to see all this happening. Nor did I. I know what he wanted. I am his father. I knew what would happen. Because I am his father.
He stood up, looked their way, then back at me, pretending not to see him. And he didn’t do it; he didn’t ask if he could go join them. Probably not yet certain he could summon the courage himself. I pretended not to notice the whole thing, eyes on my page.
A few wobbly steps toward them, a pause, observing them, a glance back at dad, thinking “Is this OK?”
I could have looked up and encouraged him. As I think back on it, I’m not entirely certain why I didn’t, but I didn’t. Seems to be a father thing. I wanted my child to own his own choice, not to inherit it by my encouragement or permission. Seems to be what a father is.
He did. He joined them. Not intensely at first. Mostly what’s called “parallel play.” Taking turns down the slide. Not talking to each other. For a while.
It might’ve been a full hour later before he came back to my bench. And I don’t remember how long it was before the next time we went to the playground, but it was probably only a day or two.
I seated myself on a bench, opened my book,…
“Dad, I’m going to go play with my new friend Gavin…”
He didn’t see me gulp, because he was gone. He wasn’t asking for permission, not even probing for encouragement. He could own this choice. Dad will be at that bench. Dad will always be at that bench. Dad is always there…
[And, oh my, he can’t fathom that Dad would rather be nowhere else. Nowhere. Nowhere else except “always there.”]
Yes, stories seem to be the only way to express what it means to me to be a father. Here’s another — that makes even a near-drowning all OK: Ok Drowning Eye-To-Eye
Neil D. 2022-06-17