I look at the news, at the world outside my window, and it freaks me out.
There are two little dudes in my life now. Henry is four in a few weeks, and not long after that, Charlie will celebrate his very first birthday. And it's almost overwhelming at times to me that I'm the father of three young kids (I also have a daughter, Violet, who's 6). Parents understand what I'm saying. These kids and their mere presence, scooting across the kitchen floor dressed like the Hulk or laying wrapped up in blankets on one of these long winter nights, their tiny chests rising and falling to the beat of their tiny hearts, it's more than enough to stop me in my tracks.
I look at the news, at the world outside my window, and it freaks me out. As a dad, I want to be everything I can possibly be. I want to protect my kids from the hurt and fear and sadness that's coming down the pike for them but I know there's not much I can do. With Violet, I need to help prepare her for what it means to be a young woman in this day and age. Her mom is no doubt more prepared for that by default, but still. I want to be there too. And I will be there, even if I don't have the answers for so much of what sh'll ultimately experience in life.
But with my two sons, well, things are a little different. I mean, I do have some serious credentials when it comes to being a boy. (And when it comes to being a man, too.) Even though I feel like I'm a pretty good specimen when it comes to being a male member of society, I still look really hard at who it is I'm actually trying to raise up when it comes to these two lads.
You can't predict the future, obviously. (And no matter what anyone says, I'm one of those guys who thinks that a child's personality is probably about 75% developed long before they ever even slip out of the womb and make their debut on the world stage.) Yet, a dad can make a hell of a difference, too. I know this because I never had one, really. My dad was out of my life from the time I was 8 'til I was in my 30's. At the same time, I had a stepdad from the time I was 16 who made a drastic difference in my life and showed me what a man should be and more importantly, that a dad, even if he's not your "real" one, can still be your real dad anyway.
So with all that in mind, I wanted to share a bit about the things that scare me about raising sons. They aren't things I don't feel like I can deal with or handle, mind you. They're just towering realities that I intend to focus on over the next 20 years or so as I help two young fellows find their legs and their hearts and souls in this crazy, beautiful world of ours.
1. The amount of assh*les in the world.
Let's face it: As many centuries have dragged on by and humanity has contnued to evolve (I use that term quite loosely), we're probably at a point in time right now where I think it's safe to say what I'm about to say.
A lot of people are fu**ing a**holes.
And when I say that, I don't mean in superficial ways, like they're Dallas Cowboys fans. What I'm saying is what we all know: Too many people are really rude and selfish and disrespectful to do much good in this world. I'm determined to not let that happen with Henry and Charlie even if it kills me. Love, in and of itself, is a natural barrier to a**holery, thus by giving my sons unconditional love - even when they're going to challenge me with amazing displays of utter ridiculousness and random acts of senselessness - I will be one-upping the main opponent when it comes to whether my kids turn into full-time jackasses or not.
By listening to them instead of always jamming my big fat over-inflated opinions down their throats, I'm (hopefully) going to be able to understand them better as the years slide by. And by developing a very real respect for me, their dad, as well as for their mom, they'll understand, even subconsciously, that respecting other human beings is the main ingredient to a life well lived. No matter who these humans are, no matter what God they believe in or who they have sex with or what their favorite ball club is, it really is.
Because respect is born of love and it breeds peace. Hippie as that sounds, it's the simple truth. And we need more of those things in this world.
2. Violence as an option, ever.
Males born with this twisted chip in their brains that causes them to feel both threatened and instigated all at the same time. It's part testosterone, part survival mechanism, part pure idiocy. Having been a guy for 43 years, I can tell you without hesitation there are way too many boys and men alive on this planet who use violence as very real option in situations they find themselves in.
I don't have the slightest idea how the hell to help my two sons understand that violence is never cool. I really don't. Sure, I've watched it go down and I've tasted my own blood on my own lips and I know for a fact it's harrowing and haunting. Violence can change a mind forever, even just a two-minute violent experience can mess up someone's outlook on life for the rest of their days.
And what's the damn point of that?
I know we live in a society that's addicted to violence and I know damn well it'll never end because there is no ending to human's delusional power trip. But if you zoom in on the camera of fatherhood until it's seriously tight and focused on the sons in your life, the best thing you can ever do is to fight back at violence. I'll talk to my boys about protecting themselves in the schoolyard. But at the same time, I'll make very damn certain that they are fully aware of all the violence in this world and that they can pratically avoid every episode of it if they understand that they're made of something bigger and better. And that their minds are the only weapon they will ever need to continue to live on and on and on.
3. Heartbreak, man.
It's a funny thing, love. We're raised in this modern society to believe that women actually feel more when it comes to emotions and such. But that's total bullshi*t and you and I both know that, right?
Men hurt, y'all. Men crumble in the wake of love's loss just as much as women do. And just because a dude might be the starting quarterback on the high school football team, that shouldn't ever negate the reality that if his super-popular girlfriend cheats on him with some cool quiet stoner (ME!) under the bleachers, he's likely to feel real emotional distress. He's likely to be heartbroken. (Then of course, there's the distinct possibility of the whole violence thing again, but you already know my take on that one).
I want Henry and Charlie to know from a very young age that it's perfectly cool and normal to feel all the highs and lows that love can bring. And that it's never going to be a problem for them in their lives if they ever want to cry about love/do backflips for love/run through a cornfield with no clothes on for love/or talk to their old man about love. I'm here to listen to whatever confusing or exhilarating things they might be feeling inside when it comes to loving another person, be it a boyfriend or a girlfriend or whoever.
Love isn't just something young guys should have to figure out on their own and whoever started this whole silent campaign to allow that to happen is a straight-up a**hole, plain and simple.