Be not afraid of fatherhood. Some men are born fathers, some achieve fatherhood, and some have fatherhood thrust upon them.
I wouldn’t exactly say that I had it thrust upon me, but neither would I say that I was prepared to suddenly become the father of a 12-year-old boy at the age of 64.
I took all the required training classes — child psychology, CPR, kung fu — but I can’t honestly say I was paying attention. I figured I’d seen thousands of movies and TV shows depicting happy family life, and I thought I knew what it was all about: camping trips, amusement parks, Scrabble, giving fatherly advice at the dinner table — that sort of thing.
I wasn’t entirely wrong. My son and I have shared those kinds of moments. The longest one, I believe, lasted 30 seconds, but that was unusually long. Most are closer to about 1.5 seconds, and they hardly ever happen anymore. It seems that the age of 12 is when the wonder years end and the thunder years begin. It’s the age when a boy starts thinking of himself as less of a family member and more of a prisoner.
I had somehow forgotten how difficult it was passing through adolescence, but having a pre-teen son has reminded me that growing up is the hardest thing we ever do. A boy his age is like a train full of dynamite racing down a hill with no brakes, and it’s a parent’s job to make sure that the train gets to the next station relatively unscathed.
So far, for me, this has mostly meant saying “No.” “No, you can’t have a pet Boa Constrictor. No, you can’t paint the roof. No, you can’t have Oreos for breakfast — not even “Frosted Mini-Oreos with 12 Essential Vitamins.”
And the homework, heaven help us, the homework. Getting an adolescent to focus on schoolwork at home is challenging at best.
If I weren’t a parent, I can’t see any possible scenario where I would come into contact with kids in real life. The last time I fraternized with children was when I was one myself, and I didn’t even get along with them then. I’ve had to search to find things that my son and I have in common. We both like sports, but in order to assert his independence, he roots only for the teams that I dislike. We both enjoy humor, but I have to keep explaining to him that people falling on their faces on “Americas Funniest Videos” is not really funny. We both like music, but what he calls music I call toxic noise.
Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but as far as I can see, there is no subtlety involved in fathering. Trying to reason with a 12-year-old is like arguing with a drunk. For them, it’s all about the process. They just want to keep the fight going. I’m having the same arguments I had as a boy all over again, except now I’m on the other side. Why didn’t any of you long-time parents out there warn me how hard this would be? Why the conspiracy of silence? Is it because misery loves company?
Oh well, after 64 years of uninterrupted, peaceful bliss as a non-parent, I guess it’s only fair that I should now suffer along with you. Let me tell you though, no K-tel Fathers Day present or schmaltzy Hallmark card will ever be adequate compensation for the pain and suffering that this parenting experience is causing me. No, I will only feel properly rewarded when I see my son become a kind, caring adult, because I know he’s got it in him.
So here’s to all you guys out there who help turn kids into well adjusted, functioning members of society. As my son would say, you’re “awesome.” I have newfound respect and appreciation for all you do. Happy Fathers Day.