Saturday, 26 July 2008

3: Later v. Absolutely (but actually 554)

I read an article about this subject, being a good parent. Basically the guy said that when he was growing up his dad would drag in from work and collapse on the couch. Whenever he (the son) would ask his dad to play with him: throw a ball or anything, his dad would say “later.” The guy said now that he’s grown up he totally understands how his dad felt, but when he’s tired and on the couch and his son comes and asks him to play, he remembers, and he says “absolutely.”

I want to be that dad, and I try. “Tickle monster” is a favorite. Jacob and I play a mean Ratchet & Clank, and Lorelei and I color Disney princesses like pros. But I find myself saying “later” to way too much.

Shannon and I talk about them being teenagers a lot. We talk about the kind of parents we want to be. We don’t necessarily want to be the “cool” parents. We want to be the parents their kids can talk to, the parents that their kids want around; the parents their kids respect, not because they’re told to, but because we’ve earned it. And I think we’ll be those. I hope we will. I spend a lot of time thinking about the education I want to give my children—the stuff they won’t learn at school or church or with their friends. How to make awesome salsa. Music and movies. How to shoot & edit good video. What the word relationship really means. I can’t wait till their old enough to appreciate Aaron Sorkin.

But that’s just the thing. I can’t wait. It starts now. It started when they were born. If I want them to listen to me when they’re thirteen and eighteen and twenty-two, I have to listen to them now. I have to make them a priority. Even if it’s easier to park them in front of Noggin. Even if I don’t really have time to color because the script isn’t finished and I’m leaving town for a week and the yard has to be mowed.

I’m a dreamer and have big dreams. I have major goals I want to accomplish. And I look at people that have accomplished stuff like that and I wonder what kind of parents they are. I wonder if they have sacrificed their relationship with their children to Make It Big. Or are they Superhuman? Are they amazing artists or professionals AND top-notch parents? Do they sleep? Is that my problem? I sleep too much?

I like to think I’m superhuman. But maybe I’m just mediocrehuman. What if I don’t have the chops to be both? Can I live with that? I know I’m going to wound them in some way. Many ways. I’m too broken not to. It’s unavoidable. But I also know that one of my biggest dreams is to help them find their passions and cultivate those. Will I sacrifice my dreams to cultivate theirs? It comes down to my major character flaw as a dreamer. When I look at the romantic Big Picture I say “absolutely!” But in the day to day? In the moment by moment living out of that Big Picture? I say “later” way too much.


Not done yet. One more day, I think.


Matt Haines said...

nice job Neil and thanks for the reminder.

Kristi said...

Thanks Neil for writing. This one hit me right where I needed it today! Later-- a common word -- needs to become less of a habit for me as well!

Hope you and Shannon are doing well!

Jami K said...

I feel complete having your random thoughts back in my life again.
I truly appreciate your transparency regarding this topic and basically making me throw-up in my mouth.

I find myself saying to Tori, "later baby, daddy's beat. later after dinner or after ::insert something:: that I know in my heart will never happen.
What does that show Tori about her importance to me, in our family?
Is she smart enough yet to catch on and then POSSIBLY, just MAYBE can rationalize that daddy never does follow through with "later" and start to resent me for that? Can a 6 year old do that?
Absolutely she can! If she can spell in Safari to play with her digital babysitter, absolutely she can and will.
What kind of image am I painting of myself in regards to reliability and being trustworthy and a man of my word to her?

Thanks for totally ruining my Tuesday morning! :)