My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"
I never wanted to the be the father that was too busy to spend time with his children. A tall order given the demands of a career which spans 24x7 on-call weekends and holidays. My son is at the age where we actually talk when we're alone together, as we were this weekend.
We have a new schedule where he and my daughter ride the bus to the mostly empty rent house - the one in which I moved my office to right before the winter storms - so with a couple of military cots and sleeping bags, we've been hanging out here until its ready. I was using the weekends to paint and they to spend time with their friends from the old neighborhood.
This weekend however, the painting having been done, my daughter scheduled for a dance her mom was taking her to downtown, and my son's friends unavailable, it was just he and I. We cooked frozen pizzas from the mini-fridge downstairs, shared fresh diced jalapenos (he would retrieve them from the mini-fridge's mini crisper and wash them, I would dice them, he would divide them on our pizzas while I washed the knife and cutting board) and then discuss Vietnamese Sriracha (Rooster) Sauce versus (our favorite) hot sauce - Tapatío (Mr. Patio) as a pizza topper. We watch Warehouse 13 in the evenings on Netflix while building all manner of imaginary vehicles with LEGOs.
Then Saturday I spent 11-hours moving furniture from storage and my temporary house in Wichita to Newton. Fully half of it in a downpour. At the end of my very full day, (and after standing in the corner of the shower for two minutes waiting on hot water) I wrapped myself in a towel and showed him what a water heater looked like, and described its function and capacity. We repeated the pizza process from the night before and afterward I made some sort of altered recipe peanut butter cookies fro desert - he tasted each ingredient used individually. We watched Warehouse 13 until 0200. Or 0300 - we lost an hour in there somewhere. The next day I drove him to his friend's house and brought him back with us so they could play video games.
But over the last several months he's been discussing things like future careers and money and favorite cars and video games. He watches a lot of MythBusters and his best subject in school is science, so he wants to do something which touches all of those. As with everything he tries his hand at, whether it succeeds or fails I am always very encouraging - not what he is currently capable of or not capable of - but what is possible.
He likes to guess the plot in the series we're watching. He likes to guess who the bad guy is, what is going to happen next. He's surprisingly good at it. But after I successfully supposed that evil Santa in the Season 2 Christmas special was trying to get the Dad to spend more time with his daughter instead of work on almost zero clues, he wanted to know how I guessed it.
I told him about the time I commuted to Wichita from Dallas for 14-months never missing a weekend home. I told him that when we lived in Anna I had an opportunity to potentially double my salary by changing jobs but turned it down because it would have kept me away from them too much. Astutely, he asked, "Then why did you take the job in Wichita and drive back and forth?" I told him, "Son, many people work very hard to get where they want to in life, and sometimes they forget where that is. When I took the job in Wichita, I was still trying to get there. But once we were living in Anna, I was very close to work and got to spend every evening and weekend with you and your sister, I realized then that I was exactly where I wanted to be. And that is how I guessed of what evil Santa was trying to convince the busy father :)"
Then later, in typical 13-year-old mentality fashion, one of his friends presumably tried to tell him that a better use of my time with him would have been to take him to Subway - which he relayed to me. I explained to him I was instead stocking the house with food and snacks for he and his sister - and all of their friends - because they wanted to spend Spring Break here at "The Cabin." That made perfect, logical sense to him.
I am proud my son is going to grow up smarter than his contemporaries.
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
All of it - every bit of it - is in attitude. And how does that manifest itself for others to see? Exemplary behavior. Bad behavior is nothing more than the stark face of poor emotional management - no matter the reason. People see someone behaving badly and never think, "Wow, what a wonderful person!" Exemplary behavior in the face of adversity is the hallmark of maturity and the path to a fulfilled life; it provides endless possibilities.
I am thankful for many things, one of which was recognizing the balance between career, and quality time with my children.
I love you guys.