February 6, 2005

Father, Son

There is a haste with which we all seek to abandon those things in ourselves that most closely resemble our parents. Or we fight tooth and nail for those thing to never manifest themselves to begin with. Its completely understandable. We attempt to escape from those qualities we share with our parents first out of rebellion and second out of a desire, a compulsion, to be our own person.

Yet genetics is ye olde double-edged sword. As the ancient philosophers said standing in the shadow of the Parthenon, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take it all and there you have the facts of life." Those old guys were right. We're unable to pick and choose these little gifts genetics bestows on us. We can't take all the good ones and turn away the bad. We are, quite simply, at the mercy of nature (and a little bit of nurture but really, that's an argument for you sociologists and psychologists in the crowd).

In the past few years, much to my horror, I've caught myself saying something my father would. Or reacting to something the way he might react. Its not only the manner, the psychology behind it - I think I sound like him a lot. I phrase things the same way, use the same intonation. With impending fatherhood, I've started to realize that I'm going to have the same effect on my child. This is a responsibility I'd thought nothing about! How did I not see this coming?

I was explaining all this to Beth recently and she made a great point. "You could do a lot worse than ending up like your father." My dad is the most honest, genuinely decent and truly caring guys I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Growing up, he only wanted happiness for my mother and I and would often ensure this at great cost to himself. The weekend Beth and I got married, for example, he had a kidney stone. He was in incredible pain, barely able to stand, yet wouldn't take anything for the pain for fear of being even more out of it. Of course, he never said anything to anyone. We only learned about it after the fact, a week later when we returned from our honeymoon. He was, it turned out, my best man both literally and figuratively.

My father had an uphill battle defining himself, being his own person. Although, maybe it was actually easier for him since it was clear early on that he wanted to be nothing like his own father. Maybe its easier that way - he didn't have to pick and choose as much as the rest of us. In spite or because of his father, he became successful, compassionate and utterly self-reliant.

The point of all this is simple - we spend a lot of time trying to run away from our parents, trying not to become them. We put a lot of effort into being our own people, defining ourselves against our values, not those of our parents. Yet, no matter how much we try, we end up like them in some way. Its a battle we can't win. I hope I didn't hurt my father's feeings, trying to be all bad-assed and different. I wasn't the straight-A student he was and I didn't fully value many of the advantages I had. So, I guess, the sure-fire way to show how much I appreciate him and the things he imparted that managed to stick no matter how much I didn't want them to at the time, is to make sure that I pass those things on to my child. And make sure that, thirty years down the road when my child is going through the same mental exercise, he or she feels the same way about me as I do my dad. And hopefully, I'll have done my job passing along the best of my father along with the best of myself.

Posted by Chris at February 6, 2005 9:06 AM
Comments

Chris,
You are wise beyond your years. May you be as proud of your child one day as your Father must be of you today. I can see it...

Posted by: JuJu's Mom at February 6, 2005 9:16 AM

Awwww, Chris... I'm tearing up!

I ended up a LOT like my Mom and while there was a time in my life I'd've sworn that was a fate worse than death, it's pretty much okay.

Posted by: Stacy at February 6, 2005 10:09 AM

Excellent.

Posted by: Sashinka at February 6, 2005 10:49 AM

Ohhh, what a beautiful tribute to your father! And a sweet perspective on the father you intend to be.

Posted by: Amanda at February 6, 2005 11:10 AM

Awww! Chris, you better send this to your dad!

Posted by: jenorama at February 6, 2005 11:14 AM

Chris, that was just lovely! Your dad raised you well, and I'm sure he's proud of you AND of the job he did.

Posted by: supine at February 6, 2005 11:51 AM

Amusingly enough, I just had listened to the last track on the Peter Gabriel Growing Up Live DVD...

Life is weird.

I'm glad you get to post this when things are going well. Most people only realize what they have when they lose it. You're the kind of person who doesn't need the kick in the butt most do. So something tells me your dad is proud of you, and everything he's done to make you the amazing person you are.

Posted by: alektra at February 6, 2005 12:09 PM

I read you post and though "sure during my teens and early 20's I wanted to be NOTHING like my parents" -- However now at 33 I can honestly say if I end up 1/2 as good as my parents are and 1/2 as happy I will have done pretty dang darn well. My parents (their generation) have a hardiness about them that I thin - in general- our genration lacks. They have a patience I am working on and a sense of work for what you want don't charge it - that I desperately need.

All in all I would love to 'grow up' to be like my mom and have characteristics of my dad too. I KNOW I could do a lot worse then ending up like my parents. Thanks for the though provoking post.

Remember your baby will have these same thoughts about you someday...so you better stay cool!

Posted by: Michelle at February 6, 2005 1:55 PM

Aw, that was so sweet. With your father as a role model, I'm sure you'll do fine as a dad.

Posted by: Fraulein N at February 6, 2005 2:28 PM

I think that our warped perspective as young adults makes us dread turning out like our folks... but, obviously who we are is a direct reflection of who we spend our formative years around, so it's inevitable.

Either way, I think you turned out pretty well from the little I know of you... I would say that you'll make a pretty cool Pop. :)

Posted by: PinkStiletto at February 6, 2005 2:30 PM

Great post and dedication to your dad. I am nothing like my parents and people always ask if I was adopted. Perhaps it is because I spent a lot of time away that I seem so completely different.

Blue

Posted by: Blue at February 6, 2005 2:46 PM

I have done this same mental excersise over and over and come to the same conclusion as you. You will be a wonderful father.

Posted by: Amber at February 6, 2005 3:53 PM

Chris, Ive been reading you for what seems like forever and finally had to come out of lurkdom when I read this.

It is amazing how we tend to pull away from the our parents and in many respects we want to be just like them.

Your parents did a beautiful job raising you as you have become a phenomenal man. I am sure both Beth and your new little one will always love and respect you as much as you do your own father.

Posted by: Tricia at February 6, 2005 5:13 PM

you sound like you'll be a great dad. :)

Posted by: Dawn (webmiztris) at February 6, 2005 5:32 PM

Ah yes. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. :)

Posted by: Jon in Michigan at February 6, 2005 8:16 PM

That is beautiful! That is what makes you a rock star.

If everyone had that kind of insight before they had children, I do believe the world would be a better place.

Posted by: ms.quilty at February 7, 2005 12:48 PM

Heee. Yes, it seems to be the worst thing when you're younger, but when you do start growing up you realize that being like your parents isn't as bad as you thought.
I'm alot like my mom in certain things I do or the way I say things, but I'm also alot like my dad - willful and hard-headed. ;)

I just love the fact that the older you get, the better you get to know your parents. It sounds silly, but I really enjoy hanging out with them. They are cool people.

Posted by: Kitty at February 7, 2005 3:12 PM

No worries, Chris. If your father is any indication, you'll be a great dad yourself. Not that I had any doubts about that before reading this post. :)

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