I am constantly panicking.
Being a parent is hands down the hardest job any human will ever hold and yet I have always known that I wanted to be a dad. When I was younger I can remember always thinking; when I am a dad things will be different! As if parental wisdom had been bestowed upon me at birth. What a joke, right? But strangely I still knew.
What the hell was I thinking?
These creatures produced through the magic of birth (yes I know how they were created I took part in the process) can bring us so much joy, but just like the picture perfect families we portray upon our Facebook pages there is the dirty underside no one sees that also exists. They test us to our emotional limits from the second we hold their little, chubby, cherub frames. Oh they get away with a lot at first, I mean come on it’s a slobbering, pooping, peeing machine with no real concept of right or wrong. One smile, one drool, one gurgled word and it is all over for us! We turn into puddles of loving goo! But as they grow older their sponge like minds absorb, evolve, become wiser and learn quickly how to turn the tables on us every chance they get!
Fast forward a few years and they are teenagers
The hardest part of parenting is not the monotonous daily routines. Yes getting a child to rise from bed every day is a pain in the ass! What is especially frustrating is when it’s a hunting or fishing day, then that same child miraculously doesn’t need an alarm clock to rise, dress, pack a lunch and be ready to go at 4 am. Also struggling with homework, cleaning their rooms, getting them to come home on time, and not only do their chores but do them well will always be difficult! No the hardest part of parenting is watching your child stroll down the same life path you chose, unless you are of course incredibly successful, then NONE of this will make sense to you!!!! Where was I? Oh now I remember! Even though you have done everything humanly possible to keep them from traveling that rocky road, you nudge them, guide them, you flat out at times push them with all the force you can muster. They do it anyways and it is very painful to say the least.
I have always tried my hardest to teach our children from my mistakes. If you read this blog on more than one occasion then you know I am very open about my past. Teenage years sneaking out of the house, staying out all night, never telling my parents where I was and not caring about the retribution that awaited upon my return. At 16 I thought I knew it all. I had a truck which meant freedom and I no longer needed anyone’s advice. My nights were filled partying with my friends, drinking way too much, and throwing the middle finger to the rules and requirements of a 16 year old boy. I was a child of the eighties and damn proud of it!
My parents on the other hand, not so pleased. I put them through hell. Not quite sure when my father officially gave up on me but he did. Many nights I am sure they worried about where I was or what I was doing, but these were the days of no cell phones, no abilities to track my location and since I refused to adhere or conform I am sure at some point they just became numb. Now on the flip side, my dad knew every cop/Sherriff/CHP officer in town because they all ate at his restaurant. So the only consolation I have for my horrible behavior is these guys were constantly keeping tabs on either my green 64 Chevy or my blue 81 Chevy. Still no excuse for my lack of respect or behavior.
Yes I was a problem, yes my parents let me know I was a problem as they well should have, but what’s killing me is the thought of history repeating itself. All that time screwing off cost me big! All that time chasing others dreams and never having any of my own ruined my youth, all that time thinking only of myself and not others took me years to acknowledge and reverse course. All of my raging against the machine, living life the way I wanted while taking no responsibility for myself or my actions robbed me of much deeper experiences in life. I quite literally fucked myself over and I regret every moment or decision to this day! Where others talk about how great the old days were, I think; yeah it was fun, I did have experiences, but at what cost? While others regale themselves in stories of grandeur, I look at them and think, well at least you were able to do it all and finish your education, follow your dreams, live life before life ran you over. I was not. As others recount the amazing friendships they made along the way, I wonder just how many I ruined by traveling constantly to the next best thing? I was always trying so hard to be something besides myself that I never even found out who I was! I followed friend after friend’s dreams instead of having any of my own. If I was dating you, I supported your aspirations or at least helped you if I could but never found who or what I wanted to become. When things got tough, I found it easier to drink, become someone else and hide behind the hatred I had for myself because I felt I was too stupid to accomplish anything on my own. Of course you would never know that because rest assured I would tell you in conversation just how smart I was or how something should be handled. Why? Because I was terrified you would see right through me. And as one would expect, on more than one occasion people I cared about did, driving them away. It made me sad.
These are things that happen to a young man when left to his own devices.
I see this in the young men that come through our fire academies. I spot the frauds a mile away because I was one. I can tell when you are at the end of your rope and feeling like a failure while hiding behind bravado, whether you know it or not you stand out like a sore thumb. When I see you, I am immediately drawn to you and depending on how our five minute conversation goes I know whether or not you are ready for assistance. I still try.
These are skills that I have acquired over the 32 years since I was considered a young man. I want to help you so bad! I want you to see the value in yourself, because if you don’t see it how will another? I want you to know you are not alone, an angry ship fighting against a raging sea of phony social expectations. You need to do you, but you need to find out so desperately who you are, what you want to become and then YOU need to grab ahold and make it happen! No one else is going to do it for you! You can never succeed off others aspirations, others actions or dreams and without knowing who you are it becomes even harder to find those dreams and make them a reality.
I say these things and yet it feels as though it never makes a difference. Maybe my words are heard, maybe some of this sets in and changes are made. Maybe.
But I know this, I am angry at the time lost. I am bitter about never finishing my education, I cannot stand the fact that I am ten years behind the curve in life due to choices I made, and I feel as though there is so much more for me out in this world than what I am experiencing. Aren’t those the important lessons that our youth should learn? Shouldn’t these lessons of failure help shape a positive future for them to adhere too? Shouldn’t they understand the pain and sorrow that comes from making the very same mistakes over and over and over again without a course adjustment? Shouldn’t my word be enough to turn that tide of brazen youth and re-hone it into a productive, active young person who freely understands the risks, the hard work and the just rewards for chasing YOUR dreams and not the dreams of others? Shouldn’t they look into my eyes, judge the wrinkles of sadness and lost opportunity and realize instinctively that I speak the truth? Because god damn it I am screaming it to the heavens hoping you hear it!!!
Oh parenting is so freaking hard! I know you think life’s not fair and you are right, at times it’s not. I also know you’re thinking when you too become a parent or mentor, things will be different! But know this.
I want nothing but the best for my children both paternal and those taken under my wing, I ask for nothing more than I think any of you can handle, I am there for you all if you need help. I will become frustrated, it doesn’t change my love, and I will never leave your side no matter what may happen. But most of all, no matter how much you or anyone else may hurt my feelings, no matter how angry you or anyone else may become, no matter how hard life feels to you at that very moment I just want you to remember. I have never lied, I will always listen to you for I have walked in these shoes, and if you will just listen to me, listen to what I have to say I have a plan and I promise when you are older whether I am alive or not, some day you will thank me.
Because I have always wanted to be a dad.
The panicking part just takes some getting used too.