Even without my drug and alcohol history being a factor, my sexual history or promiscuity, and my overall bizarre way of going about things…with all of that taken out of the equation, I was probably never cut out to be a father. My own childhood did not prepare me well for fatherhood even though I did receive some excellent male role models (in the form of my maternal grandfather and a couple of amazing uncles) to compensate for my father’s shortcomings, as amazing as these men were it may have been a case of being too little too late though in a lot of respects.
That would be a perfect world scenario though, where I did not carry with me the burden of my own exceptional laundry list of shortcomings, and we are not living in a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve had a longstanding tradition, or maybe just a habit, of fucking my own life up left and right and there was no reason for me to suspect that I wouldn’t produce a shit rolling downhill dynamic in the lives of my children as well.
Somehow I seem to have avoided that outcome, though I think that has more to do with them being good kids at heart than my skill as a father…they’re just good kids who may have also learned some sort of lesson from my mountain of mistakes.
When my oldest daughter was barely a toddler, I had the idea that it would be funny to buy her a puppy and place a two-way communication device on its collar so that I could raise her thinking that her dog was able to talk to her. I thought that it would be just fucking hilarious to spend a few years convincing her that her puppy was able to both understand and communicate with her. I would be her best friend by proxy of the magical, talking dog, telling her that no one else could ever know that I was able to talk, and that it was our secret.
I don’t know what my overall purpose for this would have been, other than playing a rather peculiar and possibly harmful prank on a very young girl I was supposed to be caring for and looking after, as well as possibly producing psychological damage in the process.
Luckily her mother was not on board with my fucked up little experiment, and she shot that plan down almost immediately upon my sharing it with her. Saner heads prevailed in that instance, and it wouldn’t be the last time.
A short while after our son was born we were in a local pet store where I saw a foot long baby Cayman alligator on sale for only a little more than $100 and I desperately wanted to bring it home with us. Once again it was their mother who put an end to that, asking me how we were supposed to keep something like that in our apartment, as it got larger. My solution was that we could place a children’s pool in our kitchen where it could grow up and that the kids would quickly learn to avoid it as it got larger or they might end up losing a finger or two in the learning process. Of course I wasn’t serious with my cavalier attitude about the children losing appendages; but I was in for a penny, in for a pound at that point, trying to justify the purchase that I ultimately did not make.
My brand of fathering is best described as being a series of barely controlled impulses sandwiched between impulses that I was unable to control sufficiently, with a light touch of emotional distance for flavor. It’s gotten better over the years, but not as much better as one might hope.
I am, by many standards, far too open and honest with my children…at least the older ones. There are few things I’ve shared with you that my oldest children did not already know, at least in broad strokes…because I always felt that they were best suited to get by in life if they were adequately informed, and I had made more than enough mistakes for all of them to benefit from the expertise I’d obtained through hard fought survival through the pitfalls my own limitless stupidity had set up for me.
I may be a fairly clear definition of the term total fuckup, but I always had rules in place. Even during the intervals where drugs and alcohol were a substantial part of my life, none of it was ever allowed to be anywhere around the apartment when the children were there with me. If someone had walked through the door with drugs on them while my children were present, there was a better than average chance that I would have been arrested for a particularly brutal assault within a matter of minutes. If my roommate (whichever one it was at the time) and I happened to have drugs in the apartment they were kept safely out of reach where there was no chance of the children getting their tiny little hands on anything they shouldn’t have.
It wasn’t until my oldest daughter was 15 years old when she saw me drunk for the first time, only because she happened to be awake far later than I had expected and was sitting in the living room when I walked through the door, and she apparently thought it was a terrific experience because she began encouraging me to go out drinking more often. My daughter enjoyed the fact that I was a fun, giggling sort of drunk…quite unlike my own father. I guess that I have that much going for me; at least I’m a pleasant drunk.
I know that I’m certainly not perfect, especially when it comes to being a father, but I can say with absolute certainty that I could definitely be worse. I’ve seen worse in my own life and in the lives of plenty of others, and I can vouch for the fact that we are, each of us, perfectly capable of being more than simply carbon copy versions of those who have failed us in our own lives.
I just had the pleasure of watching my oldest daughter graduate from high school, and I couldn’t have been more proud of that little girl who almost had a talking dog. Within that same 24-hour period my little brother and his former wife had their first daughter, and I’m proud of them as well. It’s a transitional period, for sure. My oldest child overcoming that final hurdle on her way to beginning her own life coinciding almost perfectly with their daughter making that first, gory slide into the beginning of hers.
Life is funny like that sometimes, in the good ways rather than the bad…and I’m fairly confident that I’ve done about as well as I can (considering my limited capabilities) to equip my own children for dealing with whatever might come their way. With a father like me, there was no shortage of surprise and shock along the way through life.