It came from my mouth like venom through a snakes bite. Over and over again I struck, not just during one opportunity but through countless encounters. My victim continually wandering into my lair, setting himself up for attack, never backing away but every now and again wincing just a little. It was cruel and at first unintentional, but intentions can change with the wind, leaving the recipient wondering what the hell. Soon every attack had intention and meaning, usually in front of others as if it made me a better person for calling out my victims perceived flaws. It didn’t. My strikes were evil, demeaning and showed that I was nothing more than a full-grown bully. Others would join in and like a pack of hungry dogs we feasted upon our victim’s distress. Gnawing, tearing away at his very fabric, and never once thinking about the consequences or where it may leave him emotionally. All in the name of the past, our perception and what we felt was humorous.
Last night, awake, staring at the ceiling, my mind raced over the last few months and how hard it’s been for me to keep mentally strong. Focusing directly on each child’s needs, where I may have succeeded and where I have failed. Wondering about the future and what it holds for this family I continue trying to plan the next step. Our children will need their father to be overly understanding as emotions are high. My game needs to be spot on as to not let them get away with things they shouldn’t all while easing up just a bit allowing them to feel whatever emotions they feel in regards to their mothers absence.
My daughter and 15-year-old son have presented the largest challenge.
Parker knows who he is and is very comfortable with himself. He tells you how he feels and makes no bones about you overreacting to any portion of his mental/physical/educational progress. His mind in some areas is a bit regressed while in others he is wise beyond his little 10 year old years. Lately though school has been a significant challenge for him. Myself, the school and a dear friend who has been assisting him at home have all come up with a solid game plan to keep him in play. We want him to rodeo badly as we think it will be a good distraction and it is after all what we do as a family. He wants nothing to do with rodeo and fights us at every corner. Frustrating to say the least.
Jessica my 11 year old daughter is coming into her own. Straight A student who always strives to please. She is currently expressing herself by being defiant, to everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! She has a problem controlling her weight, it is a giant burden for her that she takes very seriously. Since mom has gone back into the hospital and been gone for these four months I recently found she is sneaking food at night again. A sort of coping mechanism for her emotional status. She hides the food out of fear. Fear that she will get in trouble for eating after hours. There was a time when this was a huge issue in our family and we even went as far as building caged doors for our pantry to keep not just her but all our little vultures from eating us out of house and home. She is struggling hard, not just with the eating, but back talking, arguing, and picking fights like a drunken sailor with only hours left on shore leave! Somedays she marches around with her fists all balled up and you just know, like a back alley brawl it’s about to go DOWN!
Our rodeo cowboy Jake has also been “bucking” (see how I did that?) the system as well! He hits everyday toes turned out, hand locked tight ready to turn out and hit it hard. More times than not he hits the dirt hard, but the boy saddles up and just keeps trying. Jake too has been working at finding his place amongst all of this family drama. He carries a lot of responsibility when it comes to the ranch and he is such a large man sized boy I often forget he is just that; a boy. He struggles with his grades, constantly. He is also struggling to make the right decisions when it comes to friends and after school extra-curricular activities. We have all been there and I think it’s why we want better for our children. I have made no secret about my past, about my high school experience. I chose the easier way out and I need them to learn from those mistakes. Taking the easy way out put me close to ten years behind in life. Unfortunatley like his father he has this need to experience things, to learn the hard way, and it scares the shit out of me. We have been butting heads very hard over the last few weeks to a point I feel like we were going nowhere. Lately besides grades, his behavior and his decisions when presented with an opportunity to run astray with his friends have not been good. I have also been riding him pretty hard about his new, old school hairstyle. Emotionally he looks like a beat dog.
So here is where I am going with this whole thing.
Today as we are preparing for a family visit with Ms. Jacy my gander hit the fridge. There upon it is 20 or so pictures of our family from over the last two years. Do you know what I saw? Our kids, our happy well adjusted, personable children. Smiles on their faces, hugging their bald mom, laughing with each other, holding up trophy buckles, works of art, hugging the dogs, yes the dogs are family too! Our children that I spent all night worrying about how I was doing as a father all looked ok. Each one showed their own style! Their own version of who they are at the very moment a shutter froze them in time. I saw four individuals, four young people choosing their own paths regardless of anyone else’s wishes and doing it with confidence. It was an amazing moment filling my heart with joy! But you know what stuck out the most? Jakes mullet.
Jakes mullet stuck out like a white flag waving from the trenches! Telling me it was time for me to wave that flag, surrender and ask forgiveness. For you see each one of our kids has something I constantly pick at, like a good parent should! You know, a slight course adjustment or suggestion to help them understand they aren’t fitting into a classification, a social mold if you will. A couple of things dawned on me in that very moment. One, why should our children fit into any classification? Are we not supposed to allow them a certain freedom to find out who they really are? If that means some heartbreak now and again then so be it! It will teach them how to handle themselves in tough emotionally charged situations. And two, no matter the other out of the norm issues I had in fact been particularly hard on Jake and for what? A chosen hairstyle?
When Parker said no to rodeo, claimed art as his thing and took to ditching a ball cap in favor of a flat brimmed drivers cap making him appear very artsy in deed, did I scoff at the notion? Hell no! In fact it is 100 percent ok that he hates rodeo, horses and all that goes with it. That is his choice. He has tried it, given it a good go and ended up in the hospital a few times! Trust me his thought process may change at some point and if it doesn’t so be it! That’s who he is, we love him for it and by the way the kid is very creative! His art shows a caring heart, personality and great love for all things.
When Jessica started stealing food from downstairs to hide in her bedroom. Eating at all times of the night even though we spent countless hours chastising her for such behavior did I freak out? Well YES I freaked out! I freaked the hell out! Worried my daughter’s weight issues would expand, she would be uncomfortable with herself and have huge body issues as the result of bullying! But somewhere along the line I realized the problem was not all her, part of the blame was us, more importantly me. So I pulled her aside and let her know it was ok to eat. If she felt hungry, just eat, take what you want and eat it. My only rule? Let me know you are going to eat so I can approve it or find you an alternative. She looked shocked as though the words coming from my mouth were some form of cruel joke! But nothing shocked her more than when I told her as long she is comfortable with herself, as long as she can look in the mirror and love herself for who she is, then who cares what anyone else thinks. My job is to educate you, help you make the right choices and hope you come away a strong and confident woman. If that strong and confident woman is what society deems as overweight or out of the norm then tough shit! I told her I loved her and gave her a hug. She left with a huge smile.
One thing I have repeatedly told all my children is find who you are, embrace it, make the most of it, discovery is how you find yourself so that when you are an adult you can be happy with the person you have become and you will never shrug off reinventing yourself. Yet here I was tearing apart those very values by continually ridiculing, mocking, terrorizing and just plain bullying my son over a stupid haircut! Now let’s be frank, the mullet is hands down in my opinion the dumbest looking haircut around, conjuring up images of Billy Ray Cyrus in two sizes to small faded jeans jumping around like an idiot! But that’s just it, it is my “achy breaky” image of what that haircut means to me. To him it represents several of his rodeo heroes, men he looks up too, that he wishes to emulate! I am sorry that just isn’t a bad thing and if it is what defines him as a person right here, right now, then so be it! This is how he takes those words of advice and runs with them, learning, crafting and molding the person he wishes to become! Somewhere I lost that, somewhere I felt it was ok to tear him down over and over again. On the fridge there was a card with a picture of him with both long and short hair. You know what? He is the same kid! The kid I love for who he is, not what his damn hair looks like. Today I sent him this text.
“Hey, just wanted to tell you something that’s on my mind. I know things have been rough lately between us, I hope you are learning from each encounter as I am learning from them as a father. I believe you are trying your hardest in school so don’t let yourself down. Continue to strive to always be a little better for yourself, not for me. I realized today I need to lay off you about that damn mullet. I have spent my whole adult/fatherly life preaching to you kids to be your own person and yet I contradict myself by giving you crap! If that hairstyle defines you right now then so be it! I apologize for all the grief I have given you. I am proud of you for being comfortable with who you are and that is one of the most important things for any young man to achieve. Keep up the good work, have a fantastic day, I love you…”
He replied by saying thanks dad, it’s just a rodeo thing and I don’t care about the mullet grief. I am working hard on my grades and I love you too.
Maybe it was just me.
So bring back the mullet son, business in the front, party in the rear! Either way, a mullet, a few well-placed photographs, and a sleepless night all combined so I could learn when fatherhood crosses the line into parental bullying, ending with the discovery that your child, hell your children are really doing just fine…