When I first heard the news, I was ecstatic. I’ve wanted to be a dad for as long as I can remember. Any time a small child was yelled at by their parents, growing up, I wanted to shield them. They were defenseless little creatures who had no recourse against the imposing, angry figures standing in front of them. Sometimes, after I grew a bit bigger, I would intervene politely. I felt a sort of guardianship for kids.
The chance to be that steward came in the form of a 10-pound baby with incredibly blue eyes and an impish smile about six years ago. Finn was my first chance to care for someone else in the most intimate and grueling ways possible. There were moments when I had to give everything inside me to be better for him. It was uncomfortable in ways I imagine a snake feels when it sheds a skin. Friction and evolution. I questioned whether I was cut out for the whole parenthood deal.
Years passed, and the reciprocal feelings of love, affection, humor, and adventure swelled. We found common interests and affirmations of our connectivity. A new boy joined us, and added even more dimension to our lives. But it still could be so difficult. I’ve often theorized the hardest parts of parenting are moments and behaviors that mirror our own issues. A tiny mirror reflection begging for attention. It’s tough looking at our weakest or most sensitive parts of ourselves.
I love being a father. It’s the marrow of who I am. But it’s fucking hard sometimes. In all the theoretical discussions about having it all we can’t subtract the fact that having more of one thing usually means having less for another. I’ve tried to be there, provide for my family, stay creative, achieve goals, keep a job, plan for the future, stay healthy, dream, laugh, love and learn. Some more than others. Some none at all for long stretches.
But one of the hardest parts of this whole metamorphosis is assessing whether I’m doing a good enough job being a father to my boys. I know I’ve harped on this before but it’s ridiculously ambiguous, especially when considering the future.
Zen archery is all about the idea that we mustn’t be conscious of ourselves when we let loose an arrow toward a target. Once we wholly become part of the act of shooting the arrow, we are no longer ourselves but a perfect moment between the target, the arrow, the world, and ourselves. I’ve yearned for that feeling as a father. I’ve had a few of those moments, but I want more.
This is where I live. In the state of questioning. Of wanting and doing.
Recently, I can’t tell if my efforts to imbue discipline and understanding with my son are working. Sometimes it completely backfires on me. My son is in tears, or he gets angry. I don’t want to be hard on him, but I have no frame of reference. My father was not a disciplinarian and my single mom just couldn’t control my brother and I after a certain point in our lives together.
So I pull my arrow from its quiver, line up my shot and let it fly. Where the arrow goes is the result of so many factors, it’s almost impossible to predict. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to will the arrow to a mark with the deepest red and beyond the furthest horizon.