Friday, March 11, 2011

What I Stole From My Dad. It's his Birthday You Know?

Well, it is my dad’s birthday today.  So, I am going to write a little bit about the miserable old fart today.  Here it goes. Happy one millionth birthday dad!  I hope you stick around for a million more.

I am sure that I am not the only parent to wonder about how much like my parents I am going to be, but there are times that it worries me that I am going to sound like my mom or dad.  That would be freaky wouldn't it?  It would mean that they were right all those times and that I am getting old.  I vowed to myself when I was 16 that I would never see the world the way that they do, but in that I have failed miserably.  I remember back in highschool hearing my mom and dad say a number of times, "You wait until you have kids of your own.  Then you'll see."  I always shrugged that off.  I was always so sure of myself, and, now, I realize how full of crap I really was. 

Now, everything is different.  I have a little life experience under my belt, and my eyes seem to see things that I never knew were out there to see before.  I am actually trying to think back of all those little talks with my parents, and I am horrified to realize that there was some real wisdom there, but I can't remember much of it now because I never really paid much attention to them then.  At 16 I thought I knew it all already.  What a dumbass!

Lately, I have been focusing on remembering all the crap that my dad spouted at me through my teenage years particularly.  I know that I am not all that different from any other parent in that I always seem to compare myself to my dad, and I am sure you try to compare yourself to either your mom or dad too.  It just seems natural to do that.  It isn't that I don't respect my mother.  It's because my dad's a guy and so am I.  It just makes sense.  

Anyway, I am not sure if I am all that different from other parents, but, if you are like me, you probably either nix or steal techniques that your parents used on you as you grew up.  For instance, I stole from my dad, and use repeatedly, a saying that I swear he repeated to us two hundred million times throughout my entire life, in fact i think I heard him say it last week.  But, I changed his saying a little bit.  Ok, I changed it alot, but the meaning is the same just the words are different.  He used to say, “You either have to shit or get off the pot.”  Well, I say, “It’s time to nut up or shut up.”  They may seem like two totally different phrases, but if you sit and think about it they really do mean virtually the same thing.  You either act on something or you don't.  If something needs to be done or a decision needs to be made there is no sense in putting it off.  Just do it.  Get it over with.  Sure, you can sit and whine about it or mull it over for days, but that will never change anything.  It's always best to get whatever needs to be done over with.

Ok, so I didn’t really take one of my dad’s favorite sayings and adapt it to my needs.  I adopted his mindset that I find particularly valuable, and I try really hard to live by it every day of my life.  For example, we had a snow storm the other day, and I didn't want to shovel out.  But, it needed to be done at some point, so I opted to do it right away.  I am glad that I did because it made it so much easier for when the plow went up the road and plowed me in again.  You know, there is some real merit to the “git’r done” attitude, and that mindset isn't just for rednecks and white trash.  It's for everyone.  Why procrastinate?  It doesn’t do you any good, and you can only put things off for so long before whatever it is you are putting off becomes a real problem.  My dad's "shit or get off the pot" mindset isn't the only thing that I stole from him.  I have also taken some of his life lessons and incorporated them into my life as a parent.  I hope that my son passes them along to his children as well.  

You know, perhaps the most important lesson that me my dad taught me occurred when I was about 13 or 14.  Like most, if not all, of our heart to heart, father son chats this one happened in the car.   I remember that I was not happy about something and dad was pissed off at me again.  Then after a few minutes of my silent pouting my dad turned to me and said, “You know it isn't my job to be your friend.  It is my job to mold you into a decent person, and I would like nothing more than for you to become a better man than me.”  Now, I am not sure if I am using the exact wording, but I am fairly certain that it is close.  

Regardless of the accuracy of the wording, ever since that day I have tried to become what my dad wished of me.  I say that I am still trying because I don’t want to fail, but I am not sure that I can succeed either.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I was thinking about it all wrong too.  

You see, I thought of it as some kind of goal that I had to reach or achieve, but it never was.  Well, at least it isn't a goal that I think anyone could reach anyway.  I mean how odd would it be to all of a sudden become a decent person?  What do you do then?  How would you know when it happened, and even if you did know the hard part would be to maintain being that way.  It isn’t exactly something you can stop because then you wouldn't be a good person any more.  For some reason, this is extremely confusing to me.  Thanks for screwing with my mind dad I really appreciate it you crotchety old man!  

Anyway, I have determined that being a decent member of society requires maintenance.  So, no, it wasn’t ever meant to be a goal.  I believe my dad meant for that chat to spur me into making a life choice that I might not have made without it.  I chose to act on what I believed was right and to hell with what other people believed of me.  I chose to help out when and where I could when it was needed.  Most of all, I chose to try to be everything that I thought a good person should be.  So, far I haven't made the cut, but I am not going to stop trying.

Yes, I missed the importance of that heart to heart with my dad 15-16 years ago, but the lesson itself was never lost.  I thought about it a lot since then, and lately I think about it even more so because, since I became a daddy, I think that I can now fully understand how my dad felt then.  

I understand that I can’t always be my son’s buddy because, sometimes, I am going to have to be the “bad” guy, the disciplinarian.  But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be his buddy forever.  I just have to recognize that being his parent is more important than being his friend sometimes.  I also would like nothing more than to see my baby boy grow up to be a better person than me too, and to see that happen means that I have to prod him into the right direction sometimes and show him the way just like my dad did for me even though I didn't realize it.  

Just because I have to be his dad first and foremost doesn’t mean that I can’t be his friend too.  It’s not because I don’t love him.  It’s because I do love him that I have to occasionally forget about being his buddy and tell him when he does something wrong and praise him when he does it right.  It is up to my wife and I to show him that there are things out in the world that deserves his attention and respect.  It is our job to help him become a decent and successful person, and, no, success isn't necessarily measured by wealth.  It is so much more than that.

You know, if I am lucky, I will be able to pass all these little but important lessons on to my son.  I just need to figure out how to teach them all to him.     

Happy birthday dad! 




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