On being a father

I was thinking about my boy today. I was thinking, “Why do we do it? Why do we talk about this amazing thing we’re going to do together: raise a family?” And as soon as they’re old enough to crawl — and for the rest of their lives — we send them off for most of the day to be cared for and taught by relative strangers. Of course I’ve never lived it, but I long with deep melancholy for the caveman days. For a simpler life. A life where I don’t sell eight hours of my life every day in pursuit of something that gives me not much more than the ability to afford the accoutrements of my lifestyle.

I want to wander through the day with my son, exploring and playing. I want to see things for the first time again through his eyes. I want to be a boy myself, lost in the long, lazy, sweltering afternoons of summer, running barefoot over grass and sand and sprinting falling diving into the cold sea.

I want to coax a fiddler crab out of its shell and delight in my boy’s squeal of laughter as it scuttles into the surf crawling awkwardly. I want to hold the net as he pulls in his first catch from Mother Ocean. And I want to tell him my story as we sit around a campfire on the beach in the night eating fresh fish and stone-baked potatoes and corn. And just a few steps away and I cannot see the endless blackness of the universe for all the brightness of the sparkling stars.

Man, doesn’t that sound good? Just plain good?

But what am I doing? Jumping from one idea to another trying to make a “career” out of my gypsy life, instead of embracing my wanderlust and just living.

What will my son gain by having a father who sends him to preschool every day? And later to substandard, outdated, ridiculous institutions whose purpose is to build more American slaves? My job gives us what? A big house? A nice car? Lots of toys? Sushi dinner?

I am dissatisfied.

In fewer than ten years I’ll be 50. Fifty. That means I’m probably about halfway done with this life. And my boy will be turning 13. A teenager for the first time. Man, what a rough time that will be for him. I remember 13. It sucks sometimes. Will I be there for him? I’ve got a plan: retirement by 50. But is that too late? What about the next ten years? Am I spending enough time with him right now to prepare him for his next challenge?

Right now I spend about an hour with my son in the mornings getting him ready to go. Breakfast. Clothing change. Get in the car. He’s a bit of a pain in the ass in the mornings, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it quality father-son time. And then I see him again around five thirty or six o’clock in the evening until I put him to bed at eight. Two hours. And part of that time is getting him to eat his vegetables and another part is getting him to bathe and clean his teeth and get ready for bed.

I think that reading to him in bed is quality time.

I sometimes go to the park with him.

Rarely, I play with him and his Legos

I feel like this is not how things ought to be.

I feel like I should wake up in the morning as the sun is coming up and go for a run on the beach. Have a coffee. Wait for my boy to wake on his own. Let him take his time.

And then, when he’s ready, go exploring and snorkeling and play cards and build forts. Or maybe I’m just missing my own childhood.

Maybe I’m foolishly wishing that I had more time. Time to be free, time to play. And maybe there’s a message in there too, for all of us.

Children remind us that being children can be great. And that we should take the time to explore that greatness from time to time.

As for me, my boy just woke up. It’s Saturday. No work. Take our time. Play. And imagine for a moment that every day could be just like this one.

One thought on “On being a father

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