Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday, April 23: One Reason I was a Good Dad

I keep hearing people talk about troubles they are having, or had with their teenagers and I keep wondering if I failed my kids somehow by having hardly any hard times. Then I remember some things I did that were fairly brilliant, and think: okay, you do some smart things and you get some great results.

In one phone conversation with my son when he was in high school ( he lived most of the week with his Mom), I knew I’d been a success as a Dad. In this conversation, he told me that he was bored and wanted to stop talking. This to me was a sign of two things: one, he could be honest with me. Two, when we were talking, he actually wanted to be, because he’d tell me if he didn’t.

In a car ride across town when he was younger, I was apologizing to him for not having much money and not being able to get very fancy with him. He told me that all that meant nothing compared to what he did have with me, the ability to be honest when he was annoyed at me, or fed up with school.

How did we get to this fine state?

When he was fairly small, I heard this idea, and gave it a go. The idea is based on this clarity: to a small child an adult is like a seventeen foot high giant. And in that small child’s life, no matter how good a parent is, they are constantly telling the child what to do, even if it’s fine and good things like eating their carrots or staying out of busy roads.

So this is the life of a small child: around seventeen foot high giants who are always telling them what to do. To me, that seemed like it must be at least annoying, and sometimes really infuriating. So I’d request of my son at various times when we were just doing this and that: “Tell me you hate me.”

I know, I know, hate is so harsh, blah, blah, blah, but I wanted him to say the worst, and not feel like it was big deal, so that when the times came up he really did hate me, he could feel it and not feel bad about feeling it, and could say it and not feel bad about saying it.

And so it went. At random times I would ask, and he’d tell me, “I hate you, Dad.” I’d be pleased. Sometimes I’d say flip things, like, “Sometimes I hate you, too.” Or, “Sometimes I hate me, too.” All this with a sense of humor. It seemed obvious and natural to both of us that anger would be part of a relationship were there is dependency on one side, and most of the control on the other, and one side is stuck in taking care of this parasite, and the other side is stuck in putting up with being taken care of by this sometimes idiotic giant.

So, that’s one thing I did for the boy. Not bad, eh?


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