How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Oh, The Places We Go

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I’m not sure about this whole adulthood thing anymore.

The events of the past month and a half have me a little uneasy regarding the state of affairs on this ball of water and rock. Life’s simplicities, once clear and vibrant, are now confused and complex.

I wanted to write about Connecticut when it happened. But I saw too many outlets cashing in on emotional outpourings, too many theories about how and why the events transpired. People worked through their grief and anger live and in color. The media took hold of our energy.

I’m not going to do that.

So, instead of writing a presumptive, emotionally oppressive post about that terrible Friday, or condemn you for wanting to hug your kids tighter, I want to tell you about the night before we witnessed another crisis that splintered us, yet again, into a million fragments of belief and emotions.

That Thursday night was peculiar. I laid myself down in my warm bed, earlier than usual, and stayed there for a good two hours with my eyes closed. Avara was fast asleep next to me but my thoughts surged. I wasn’t asleep. I wasn’t awake. I was a body held captive by a mind. The timpani drum inside my chest thumped wildly.

Then it came. “What if I die tonight?”

“What would happen?”

It was the first time that I’d been invaded by a gruesome, future-rippling thought since becoming a father.

I would’ve preferred the fantasy of ghosts and monsters that could harm me if I didn’t have the right blanket or say the right words to ward them away. I yearned to be a child again.

I remember the first time I realized I might not live forever. I was too young for such a heavy thought but that didn’t stop them from overtaking me for a moment. I was six years old.

I hit the teens like a race car hitting an open road that extends for miles, and mortality was irrelevant. Hormones. Youth. Action. The odometer sat still at inconsequential digits. As I grew, the notion was expunged from my memory through distraction and recreation but its ghost laid dormant.

Have a child, whose future is yours to protect, and you want to stick around.

I’m learning to play with my son as his personality evolves. Each interaction is a beautifully awkward improvisation. But the more deeply I invest in his imagination, his universe, the more I work out my lack of understanding of humanity. I see that the narrative can be in an instant, as my little storyteller decides. I am reminded who I am fighting for when I speak, think, act, decide, work, play, love, challenge and fail. I let myself fall in love with imagination again and it helps give me perspective. I am unshackled from the burden of maturity.

I have never felt more vulnerable and mortal than I do now, having produced a son. He is my spinach and my kryptonite. My shield and my open wound.

He is my everlasting life. To learn that I’m mortal, that’s my fatal flaw.


24 Responses to “Oh, The Places We Go”

  1. Sarah D says:

    You have described how precious it all is beautifully.
    My son has made me grab onto life like nothing else could. Great post.

  2. John says:

    Charlie, welcome to the club. It’s an awesome place in which to live every moment.

    You’ve described this perfectly.

    Keep this post, and come back to it once in awhile when those moments of doubt and disappointment stampede in. They will come, as does the thunderstorms on a hot summer’s night.

    But the rain will subside and you will both be stronger and refreshed for it.

    Kids are wonderful, and especially when they look back and say, “Dad, you’re all right. Thanks for the help.”

    I pray blessings for you all. Thanks again for this wonderful post.

  3. Sara says:

    Your post hit a chord very close to home…3 wks after your wonderings, (to the very day), my beloved sister-in-law passed away, leaving a bright and happy 3 yr old son, and 12 yr old step-son, and a very shaken husband behind. Her parents are devastated, as is my husband, his baby sister…gone. The one thing everyone voiced, the common thread in all our thoughts and cries to the powers that be were simple “What about baby boy??” We vowed, as a very large family unit, biological and extended, to one another and to his now-departed mother, we would endeavor to do our best to let her son know her, through us. Our memories, our stories, our pictures, some videos, who his mama was, and will be to all of us, for the rest of our lives. Our own mortality becomes stark in a time like this, and I think the only thing that is getting any of us through this most difficult and chaotic time, is knowing her legacy, her immortality is in her son’s bright smile and cheerful disposition.

    His nickname is Tank, but, he’s the happiest Tank I’ve ever laid eyes on. This is our legacy to ourselves, and to the world…our children. Our love for them, and the faith in others that, should something happen to us in an untimely manner, that those that knew us best are going to endeavor to keep our memory alive for our babies, that will never have to grow up wondering who we were as individuals. We hold our own children closer in our family, and my nephews, well, we hold them a little closer still, just to have a sense of being near their mama once more…your post is beautiful and as I sit here teary eyed, I thank you for it.

    • Coco Cana says:

      Sara, I’m in tears over your response. I’m so, so sorry for your family’s loss. That is just heartbreaking. You are doing the right thing to honor her. God bless you all.

  4. Beautifully said. Perfectly accurate. What else could both give us strength, and make us feel weakness at the same time.

  5. andrea noakes says:

    Thank you.

  6. The Mom Jen says:

    I’ve never been able to describe the impact the kids have on my heart, your words, “He is my spinach and my kryptonite. My shield and my open wound.” are what I feel.

    Fabulous post!

  7. Justin says:

    I stumbled across your site a coupla months back and have lurked through ever since.

    I find your insights into being a father amazingly accurate, at least for me. I have 1 15yr old girl, a 13yr old girl and a 3yr old son (oops!).

    I just wanted to say “Thank You” for putting in to words things some of us have a hard time expressing! Keep up the good work!


  8. Aaron says:

    Great post, this has been the most unexpected part of fatherhood for me. I agree with you totally, it has made me much stronger, but also popped the bubble on immortality. I stopped thinking about my potential as much as my legacy. Very powerful concept and you captured it well.

  9. JeninCanada says:

    I was about to write something poignant in return, but just as I reached the comment box my 4 1/2 old daughter, who’s laying next to me on her playmate, farted loudly.

    Aaah parenting. *hugs*

  10. james says:

    So true the line “he is my spinach and my kryptonite.”

    • Jade says:

      Agreed! I feel all of these things about my own little boy. Beautiful post Charlie! Your words will easily resonate with every parent who reads them.

  11. Kevin says:

    Beautifully written and very true, I feel the overwhelming sense to need to protect and be strong for our son, but comes also with an overwhelming sense of vulnerability, and with our son suffering from GERD I am always in between being both strong and weak/vulnerable at the same time.

  12. Laurie says:

    Nicely done.

  13. Megan Steinschauer says:

    Ah Charlie, you truly have a way with words! Beautiful and so true … I sort of feel a little guilty for even having brought my little one into this “big bad world” knowing that I may not always be there to protect her …

  14. I also have a son and you took the words right out of my mouth. I have been thinking a lot lately about how my son’s sense of security greatly depends on me. Unbeknownst to him, it’s a very false sense of security because there are so many things I can’t protect him from. I am great at getting rid of monsters under his bed or in his closet, but am completely unable to get rid of monsters in real life who might make it their insane mission to come shoot up his kindergarten class. You are so right: it’s spinach and my kryptonite, shield and open wound. Great post! Happy New Year!
    Justin- Writing Pad Dad
    Follow my blog!

    • Julia says:

      Oh yeah, but the sense of security is important not just for the real security you give, but for the imprint it leaves. Being safe and feel safe are not the same things, because nobody is ever really, absolutely safe, but feeling safe just shapes the way you are and go about your life – your relationships with stuff and most importantly, your with other people.

      The deaths of those 20 kids, which happened the same week as the deaths of about the same number of kids in a playground in a war area in Middle East, and 2 funerals of relatives to dear people, sort of reminded me of mortality. We may die at any moment, and we certainly will some day, and it’s the most precious thing I’ve ever had (that is, my daughter) what makes the thought fearsome while it makes every day worthwhile.

      When my daughter was born I almost went mad thinking she might die. The thought is still maddening, sickening, but I have to keep it with a short lash. Yes it may happen, but it hasn’t. Let’s go on, life’s calling.

  15. “my spinach… my kryptonite” beautiful yet manly. I’m going to use that if you don’t mind.

  16. Coco Cana says:

    ” I wasn’t asleep. I wasn’t awake. I was a body held captive by a mind. ”

    As someone who suffered through 2 pregnancies worth of insomnia as well as the typical “momsomnia”…I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it. Thank you for finally giving it a face.

    In fact, the post I just wrote on my blog TODAY is talking about getting MORE SLEEP!! LOL! Ugh. My battle cry.

    Very well written Charlie. Once again. I enjoy your blog very much. thx

  17. Brent says:

    From very early on I’ve observed that being a dad makes me feel simultaneously way older and way younger than I’ve felt in a long time.

    Wonderful thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.

  18. Jeff Zbar says:

    Agreed. With three kids aged 21, 19 and 15, not a week passes without such an existential thought in my head. From before our first was born, we have lived in the moment, enjoyed all that life has given, sweated a few scary thoughts, of course – and bought really good life insurance. I’m no shill for the insurance trade, but it goes a long way to providing peace of mind. If as George Harrison said, all things must pass, then recognizing that, live large today, protect their futures, and enjoy the crap out of your kids

  19. Sarah says:

    Beautiful and perfectly written

  20. Brandon K. says:

    That was probably one of the most beautifully written articles that I have read in a long time. Thank you for sharing your words and vulnerabilities – you are not alone. Thank you!!!

  21. Christine Taylor says:

    This Very Thought brought About My Panic Attacks. My Son Was 8 Months Old. God Is The Only One That Keeps Me Sane.

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