While I am definitely more mindful these days of trying to avoid the use of bravado in my letters to you, I must admit, my ego took a bit of a hit when I recently had to start riding in the backseat with you.
Something always seemed awkward, if nothing else, about seeing a wife drive the car while the husband was in the front passenger seat.
Well, at least it’s not that bad. The new normal is that Mommy drives and I accompany you in the backseat.
I have relinquished my role as the family chauffeur; a role that I feel is supposed to be mine, as the dad and husband.
But, as I had hoped when I implemented this plan, you are a lot less anxious, needy, whiny, and hungry now that it’s me sitting next to you in the back seat.
You see Mommy as the nurturer, which she is.
However, with me, you just want to chill out. Either you contemplate your life, deep in thought, as pictured right; or you like to be goofy with me as we sing the few lines we know of the songs from The Lorax movie:
“How ba-a-a-ad can I be?”
I’m curious to see how our new driving method will work on our next road trip.
We drove two and a half hours to Alabama last month, but it felt more like five. There was nothing Mommy could do back there to make you happy. Plus, you needed a nap, but that never happened.
Since I’m not the nurturer of the family, I wonder if it will be easier for you to fall asleep in the car if it’s me back there with you next time.
It’s just that your expectations are so much different (and lower?) for me as your seatmate, as opposed to Mommy.
You treat us differently. You are much more low-maintenance with me; you always have been.
Like I’ve mentioned last July in “The Hunger Games: Toddler Edition,” you are not as hungry and you ask for food less with I’m the parent caring for you. You can go for hours without thinking about food if it’s just you and me.
But with Mommy, you’ll eat two meals in a row.
So for now, I’ll be your backseat buddy. I shall entertain you, make you lose your appetite, and bore you to sleep.
For a nostalgic guy like me, it can be very difficult to “live in the moment.” And that’s not a good thing when it comes to being present in body, mind, and spirit as a husband and father. Not to mention, it’s sort of impossible for me to stop thinking about how I will provide for my wife and son.
In 1996, while most other 15 year-olds were listening to cool alternative grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, I additionally had something they didn’t have: a cassette tape of the first album by The O.C. Supertones.
You’re probably familiar with hearing someone say “I grew up really Jewish… bar mitzvah, the whole deal….” Even if it was simply Seth Rogen on Conan who said it, you understand the concept of “growing up really Jewish.”
Well, I “grew up really Christian.” I learned to play the guitar in Junior High because I led the music for my church’s youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Every summer I went on a mission trip to a different state or country, doing repairs on widow’s homes during the day, then participating in drama and singing performances at city parks in the afternoons. (Yes, I had a trendy W.W. J. D? bracelet.)
And while DC Talk was the coolest Christian rock band back in the those days, I also was a huge grassroots promoter of The O.C. Supertones- the main Gospel ska band of the ’90′s.
Last week as I felt like listening to nothing but all of their albums back-to-back, a line from their song “Unknown” stood out to me. I have been listening to that song for 15 years but it finally made sense to me at a time when I needed to hear it most:
“Killing ourselves faster than fast; living in the future, living in the past.” I haven’t been able to shake the thought of how constantly I do just that: I participate in the self-destructive behavior of either A) dwelling on how I should have/could have/would have done things differently in my past, if I was able or B) dwelling on how much better life will be a decade from now when my problems will hopefully have worked themselves out.
I realize that with all the positive vibes I constantly send out in my daily writings here on The Dadabase, I may sometimes make my version of being a dad and husband seem easier than it actually is. And perhaps it seems that Jack never causes any stress for my wife or I. But despite my optimism and quirkiness, my life is as normal as they come. I encounter the same basic stresses as all other dads and husbands.
Admittedly, I question some of my past decisions and actions. And I seriously wonder about my future; financially.
Since moving from our secure jobs in Nashville before Jack arrived, we now live on a much smaller single income, with a kid. Yeah, the thought of money stresses me out big time. Living here in Alabama now, I can’t provide for them the same way I used to. Money sure isn’t everything, but Nashville’s good economy definitely eased things in my mind.
As I am wired to do, I ultimately feel responsible for providing for my family. So I question the version of myself who a few years ago led me to make the decisions to get me here today. And I often fantasize about a future time when I won’t feel the stress that I am feeling now.
Of course, my making a habit of mentally time traveling is not a good thing. Because if I keep going back far enough, I may fantasize about a time when I had no real responsibilities and no family of my own. And it is nothing but counter-productive and selfish to subconsciously covet the 21 year old college version of myself who made money by selling egg rolls and Hot Pockets from the mini-fridge in my college dorm.
The weight of my responsibilities is constantly on my mind. Will I be able to care for my family? Am I good enough for them? Should I have gotten something other than an English degree a decade ago in college, so I could be assured I’d make enough money to be the breadwinner at age 30?
This is an honest, vulnerable look into a guy’s brain. I’m never unaware of my need to provide. Never.
Other men have greater or less financial concerns and decisions to make. But still, as men, we are perpetually terrified of the realistic demon who reminds us that nothing we can do is ever enough.
It’s a matter of reminding myself that that even the ravens, who don’t even sow or reap, who don’t have storerooms or barns, are still fed. And I am much more valuable than a bird.