Thursday, June 29, 2017

I don't want to be in charge

I've spent the week in The Thick visiting my dad at his nursing facility, and while I'm here my wife has been having difficulty dealing with the Tall Kid, our foster son. According to her, one of the things he's told her several times has been, "Well, Bobby lets us [whatever it might be he wants to do and she doesn't want him to]. He doesn't have an issue with it."

So naturally relationships between fathers and sons has been on my mind.

She's right when she suggests I'm inconsistent in disciplining him. This is a part of why I've never wanted kids: I can be quite consistent when I'm working, say, with teenage boys and girls because it's only for a number of hours a day, and then I go home and I don't have to care about them. When I'm home, I don't want to be in charge, I want to drink a couple beers and read a book and go to bed. In my defense, I knew going into this situation that could not be how things happened, but I didn't really think much about it.

But I can't be like my dad who, for all his plusses, was not much of a disciplinarian or involved in my day to day life when I was a kid. My mother was easily the primary fount of good and bad behavior, punishment and praise, in the lives of my sister and I. When she was disappointed or angry, or proud or happy, we were aware of it. She was a larger-than-life personality, a Mama Rose without the pathetic demands for attention or the murder accusation. I think I was, somewhere in the back of my brainpan, under the impression I could count on the same happening as a foster dad.

Since my mom died my dad has played a larger role in my life than ever before. One of the things he's done of which I'm proudest is to have been the priary caretaker for my mom the last decade and a half of her life. A favorite memory from those years is his gently tugging a scarf around her neck and making certain her shirt collar was comfortably inside the scarf, reminiscent of my own actions readying residents of group homes where I worked for winter walks. After his retirement as a banker, my dad spent several years volunteering at the same sort of group homes, often doing overnights, work he has since said he wished had been his career.

The Tall Kid lives for basketball and I am watching a WNBA game, part of my determination to watch as many games as I can because I want to appreciate his playing and I want to share that appreciation with him in his language. This is another difference between me and my dad, who never tried to be a part of my life outside (or, so far as I could see, inside) our home. I don't know this will make me a better dad than him, I don't think about it that way. I like to think, since I'm not his father, this will make a difference as the Tall Kid matures.

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