Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The First Day of Fourth Grade

     Tomorrow is my son's first day of fourth grade.  FOURTH FUCKING GRADE.  Do you realize how insane that is?  He's had four school years since preschool.  After this year he'll have four school years until high school.  I don't have anything profound or even semi-coherent to say about that.  It's just crazy.
     When I went to tuck him in tonight we had to move his clothes he has picked out for tomorrow off the bed.  There was a nice, button-up shirt and a tie and he even remembered socks and underwear.  He wants to look fly for his first day.  Then there was also a pair of sweatpants because he couldn't find anything else.  Yes, he was planning on wearing a nice shirt, a tie, and sweatpants because that's who he is.  I'm usually a hands-off parent who doesn't interfere but I did help him find a pair of slacks to wear instead. If there's time I'll try and take a picture in the morning and include it in this post.
     At the risk of making myself look like an idiot when I post this in the morning without a picture, I'm going to bet there will be plenty of time for me to take one and upload it. He's easy in the mornings.  There's no yelling and screaming at our place and there's only franticness if I wake up late.  Otherwise, he just gets up and does what he needs to do. Tomorrow I'll feel like he's saying look Dad, there's already so many ways I don't need you.

     That's what is supposed to happen, of course.  Children are supposed to learn to take care of themselves.  That's successful parenting.  That's one more thing no one tells you before you become a parent, though.  Sometimes successful parenting hurts.
     I won't tell him any of this.  There's no reason to make him feel bad about growing up. Instead, I'll just make sure he actually puts on the socks and underwear he has laid out and help him with his tie.  Then when he's ready to go I'll tell him he looks pretty good for a big old dork and he'll remind me that he is my son.  Then will hug, I'll drop him off, I'll head off to work, and he'll head off a little more into the future where he can live without me.
     Sometimes he'll catch me looking at him and ask about it.  I want to say that he's getting so big on me that I just can't believe it but I don't.  Instead I tell him I'm just daydreaming about the day I can turn his bedroom into a library.  He says go ahead and do it now Dad and I'll never move out.  It's always good to know I have a backup plan.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A New Place

     We moved into a new apartment this weekend.  When I first moved into my own place, after my marriage ended, I took the first place I could find that was close to my son and where we used to live.  It was run down, dirty even clean, and neglected but I never intended to be there for long.  It was supposed to be temporary, maybe a year tops, while I got my feet back under me.  Now over two years later I've finally managed, with plenty of help, to move us somewhere better.  When people talk about their houses they sometimes say "it ain't much but it's mine."  When I talk about my new place I say "it ain't much but it ain't crappy like the old one."
     It feels good.  It is tempting to call it a fresh start or a new chapter or a new phase in life but I won't.  Life doesn't work like that.  Life, and the impact of it, isn't organized in acts.  There are no true rebirths.  We call times childhood and adolescence and adulthood but it isn't like they're separate.  The things that happened to us as children still affect who we are when we're ninety.  Thirteen and thirty really aren't that far apart at the core of ourselves.  In life there is a beginning, called birth, and an ending, called death, and the rest is middle without the organization of chapter or verse.
     I don't mean that things don't get better.  I just mean that it doesn't happen in a moment or because of an occasion.  Things get better, we get better, a little bit at a time over time.  This new place of mine holds the promises of cleaner, nicer things in our lives but I wouldn't trust it at all if we hadn't already been improving our habits.  The best way I can explain what I mean is to say that an alcoholic doesn't quit drinking the day they have their last beer.  They quit a little bit whenever things got worse and they got disgusted with themselves and they quit a little bit every time they try and fail to quit gathering the strength for when they, hopefully, try and succeed.  Then even afterwards they are still an alcoholic.  They are still who they are before just better.
     That's the way life improves; gradually a little at a time if you work at it.  That's why I'm a fan of baseball.  I think it's the sport most like life.  There might be a mid August game winning homer that puts a team in first for good that they might be tempted to point to as the turnaround for the season but that homerun doesn't happen without hours in the cage in April and studying video in May and stubbornly playing through a slump in June.  They work and work and it leads to that moment in August or September but that moment isn't the season.  It isn't a sudden change and it doesn't happen without the hard work of the rest of the season.  That's how life is.  We grind it out and things get better a bit at a time.
     Some will say that over time I'll forget how much I hated my old place and have nothing but fond memories of it but it doesn't really work that way for me.  I do have some fond memories.  I'll remember the banter and the love between my son and I but I'll also remember staying up late listening to the leaks and staring at the stains and doubting myself as a father for not providing a good enough place for my son.  It'll be much of the same in this new place.  My son and I will still be bantering and loving and living but will just be happier.  Since we were pretty happy anyway things will be great.  I'll still stay up late sometimes wondering if I'm a good enough father too but that's just because certainty is for chumps.
     The new place is just a new place.  We will be happier so it's worth being happy about.  It isn't a new chapter or a new beginning or anything though.  I'm still Brad's dad same as I was I think before I was even Brad's dad.  I think sometimes my mom and dad were just preparing me to be Brad's dad even though they didn't know it.  They might have, though.  They are that wise.  It's the same as I'm preparing Brad to be a dad or an astrophysicists or something I can't even imagine.  Life just blends together like that.