This is actually Mary Kay’s high chair, used for our kids (when at their grandparents’ house) and now for the grandkids.
For whatever reason, I cannot recall, in my younger pre-fatherhood days, thinking about being a father. I think that fatherhood to me was just something that went along with life, with my career, with marrying and ‘settling down,’ whatever that is, and proceeding through life.
As a perfectionist, I look back at all of the mistakes and missed opportunities I had with our sons, never really, truly sure about what I was doing, but always going from the gut, with my instinct, and with the thought that I just needed to accept who I am, which has not always been the easiest thing for me. I view my life’s plan as a three pronged effort, being the best human I could be, being the best in my professional career and most importantly, as a family member, and with children that meant being a dad.
I gave it my utmost, my utmost within the framework of a human being with frailties, sometimes really hitting the mark and sometimes missing it. The love was always there and the thing about that is that it will always help you do your best.
Sometimes I view my career in education with thoughts that I might have done things differently, that I might have achieved more, but in the long run I think I served my students well and hopefully provided them with a learning environment that not only gave them a decent background into language learning, specifically French, but also a desire to be a good human being and to treat each and every person encountered with respect.
As Mary Kay has reminded me of late, when thinking of where my family fit into my master plan, the family was always first and foremost, and that it even affected my career plans. For example, in the perfect world, I would have been able to have my family and pursue the dream of a PhD. I realized that given where I was teaching, and what I was able to accomplish, that the only thing a PhD would do for me is to be a financial drain and take me away from my family, a price I was unwilling to pay. I was unwilling to have any time whatsoever as an absentee parent. For all practical purposes, a PhD would not have truly improved our financial situation, which was also a factor.
I came to fatherhood with pretty much a blank slate. I was savvy enough to read up on the subject, but also smart enough to realize that the manuals for parenthood change incessantly with time and thus perhaps might be less than desirable as something to follow with a religious fervor.
My blank slate in the fatherhood arena is due to the fact that my role models were lacking. My father was taken from me when I was seven and I can barely muster up the ability to even remember his voice, much less any activity whatsoever with him. I look at my four grandchildren aged nine and under and think all of the time, what would they remember of me if I disappeared from their lives? I had uncles that I saw with regularity, only from one side of the family, but they were too self-involved and didn’t really have time for me. My grandfather, the only real man who had a large place in my life, due to his helping my mom in single parenthood, was a less than perfect role model, having pretty much botched it up with his own children, but despite his inability to get to my level, surprisingly gave me fodder for my own personal parenting philosophy.
So I went with my gut. Strangely, although in other areas of my life, I sometimes didn’t have the confidence I wanted, I always had strong, common sense feelings about how I needed to proceed with our kids. My one hope? Not to screw them up too much; that is pretty much all we can hope for.
Despite our sons saying, as all kids often do, that they would never live where they were brought up, they all live nearby. We are incredibly blessed that not only do our sons and their families live nearby, but that we see them all the time, often even with impromptu get togethers. I feel as if we have created a dynasty of nice human beings who believe in fulfilling their potential, and are responsible, loving human beings.
So, in these uncertain, scary, nightmarish times, I can always feel loved within the bosom of my family, each and every member is so unbelievably dear to me, to the point that I doubt they could possibly even grasp how much.