Coming on the third Father's Day, which is very cool. I don't have any real plans firmed up yet. We've considered visiting the Muhammad Ali center. And for whatever I have for dinner's main course, I am having a dozen oysters on the half-shell in advance. That's about it for my big plans. I'd like to think it's because I'm low maintenance, and not because I'm lazy.
But I've been thinking about parenting, and being a dad, as I am wont to do, you know.
It's a weird thing. In recent years I've really become judgmental about people, not generally, but in very specific ways. You can be a prick, a blowhard, a jerk, a phony. Generally speaking, unless it impacts me quite directly I don't care. I don't have to have you in my life, or have an opinion on you. In fact, the less I think about you the better off we both are.
But there is one area where I've become kind of a stickler. You can be the world's biggest a-hole to me, but if you have a great relationship with, and are good to, your kids, and they love and admire you I will basically think you're not all bad. In fact, maybe you're okay, just not to me.
Conversely, you can be nice, nice, nice but if your kids think your a shit, I, deep down, don't care for you.
Or maybe you've been a shit to your kids, but they still love you and try with you. That's okay, they can still care for you, but I won't like you.
You almost certainly will never know this. I won't tell you, because it's really not my business, but this is pretty much how I judge people these days.
You can fail in a lot of ways, but if you are good to your kids and love them and they love you back, and mean it, I will say you're a good man.
Conversely, you can be a great success in this world, but if I see you being a bastard to your kids and family I will never trust a word you tell me, no matter how nice you are to me.
I had a boss in Boulder who was a bastard. There's no other word for it. He treated his staff like crap, threatened, harassed and tried to intimidate people. He was belligerent, and a blowhard, and sometimes not all that smart. He told me my predecessor was fired for not doing what he said, on my first day on the job.
Nice guy, right?
But his daughter would walk in, and she loved her daddy. You could tell. And it probably wasn't always easy on them, because this was a broken home.
Okay, to me he was still a bastard, and at times I could have easily imagined strangling him. But then I would think of him, and his daughter and think, well, you know, he sucks but at least he's not all bad. Maybe 95%, but not all.
Conversely there is a guy who is buddy-buddy with my own dad, and he is always friendly, garrulous even.
Then one day, about 16 years ago he was over at our house, selling my parents a car. It was in great condition, and he kept it up well, the motor sparkled. Meticulous.
But, and I don't know what caused it, his wife said something, and I saw him snap. I don't remember what he said/shouted, but his nice-nice face darkened real fast, he lit into her, and I could tell he only wore the mask of a friendly man. No, he was not friendly.
This is how I think of him today, and I've seen him many times since.
The problem is, you don't get to say whether you are a good parent, or a good father. That's not your call in the end. No, only your children can determine that. And it takes a long time to see if what you claimed was your "best" really was.
I hope my best is really my best.
And yes, sometimes kids hate their parents, even though the parent does everything right. And sometimes kids from great, loving homes end up ruins, addicts and disasters.
But mostly it's not that way. Mostly people who travel those dark roads go there because there is an emptiness inside that should have been filled very young by a parent's love. They are looking for something that can't be so easily found in drugs, or food, or booze, or self-hate, but that doesn't mean they're not going to try it anyway. Mostly if kids turn out to be problematic adults you can safely lay the blame at the feet of the child's parent in some way.
So those are my thoughts on Father's Day!
That and I hope I get a tie.