5. The Late Nights and Early Mornings: Even though I take comfort in the knowledge of that fact that I provide comfort for my two little kids when they wake up in the middle of the night scared, I would still prefer to do without it. Mara has been on a kick of getting up around 6am to start her day these past few mornings and I can live without that too. The older kids like to stay up really late and sometimes they make too much noise. One of the things that makes me very angry is when I have just put Harrison or Mara down for a nap, or to bed for the night, and one of the older kids or my mother-in-law gets too loud, for no good reason, and wakes them up. I’m a fan of getting the kids prepped and in bed between 8-9pm and them waking up between 7:30-9am. It has been done before. It used to be the norm. When I get back from my jog in the morning around 7 ideally I’d have time to shower and get a little bit of work done. But lately Mara has been up waiting for me, screaming, when I get home. All that means is even earlier mornings for me. If it continues this week I’ll have to start getting up around 5am. No good.
4. Saying No: I hate saying no. I feel like I always have to say it to the little ones and it gradually loses it’s meaning and value with them as we go along. Along those same lines I want them to be able to do whatever they would like to do, as long as it’s safe and reasonable to do so, and it’s heartbreaking to have to tell them no sometimes. If they want to go outside and play with their friends, but we are in quarantine or there is some sort of Covid-19 issue in the neighborhood with one of the kids, I hate breaking their little hearts and telling them no. And there’s no way they will ever understand, not until they’re an adult with kids of their own. The older kids are a little better about it, but it’s also a different set of circumstances. Whenever Travis asks to go outside the answer is basically always going to be yes. I want him to play outside as much as possible. But I need to remember that it’s okay to say no to him. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses as a father…I would describe it as wanting to please my kids too much. There have been many times where ten minutes after I tell Travis he can go ride his bike with his friends, I’ve turned around to see his room was a mess, the dishes were dirty, and none of his chores had been done. Then I walk down the hallway and his mom is quick to say yeah he asked you because he knew I’d say no. Two and a half hours later he trots back to the house 30 minutes late. And I’m thinking DAMN. So now every time I say yes I do it on the condition that he has taken care of all his responsibilities first. That way I don’t feel so bad. With Chloe, I rarely say no either. She wanted to go out and protest with some friends after the George Floyd murder but we wouldn’t let her. I was worried about her safety, not afraid to admit that. Her heart was absolutely in the right place, but there were too many unknowns for my wife and I to just let her go. And it was one of those rare moments where if we went with her it probably wouldn’t have made much difference, if something were to happen. I guess the bottom line is, I don’t like telling my kids no, whether it’s for letting the little ones know they need to stop something that they’re doing, or disappointing the older kids in disallowing them to do something they want to do. It’s just something that’s very hard for me to do and I don’t enjoy it at all. The goal is to teach them well enough early in life that I won’t have to tell them no very often.
3. Being Hypocritical: I’ve already written a couple times about this matter. A lot of my fathering has and will be done with the do as I say not as I do model. It’s extremely hard to preach against some of the stuff that I’ve taken part, and done, in my life when I was their age. I’m reminded of the mistakes of my past many times a day while I’m hanging out with my kids. I’ve basically been a hypocritical person my whole life. On both small and large scales. Whatever was best for me, at that exact moment in time, is what I believed in. I never stood for much of anything beyond that. I never took much of an inventory on what I believed. Those various ideals seemed to lean whichever way the wind was blowing. Fatherhood has changed all that, but it’s tough to simply turn the page on who I was. The past will always linger, and it will be very tough to tell my kids with 100% validity the correct way to do something if I have failed myself to achieve it at their age.
2. The Planning (lack of freedom): You can’t just do something you need to do at the drop of a hat, and definitely can’t do anything you want to do at a moments notice either. It all has to be planned. If I need to run out to the store and grab some lunch meat because I forgot I ran out the day before, it takes 45 minutes to an hour. And the store is only five minutes away. Why? Oh because I can’t just grab my keys and run out the door. It usually involves me telling four different people at four different times what the plan is. The kids were no doubt in the middle of something, probably eating lunch themselves, so I’ll definitely have to stay until they are finished. After that I’ll begin the process of either putting them down for naps or finding someone to watch them while I’m gone. All while being hungry myself and trying not to disrupt the wife while she’s working. While informing everyone I need to just run to the store real quick, I will undoubtably get requests to ride along and/or pick something up. And text messages about something they forgot to tell me to get as I’m walking out to the car with everything already purchased. It’s never, ever simple. Ever. And that’s just what happens when I want to run out and get some sandwich meat. The bigger the issue, the more complicated and time consuming it can be to jumpstart and complete. It’s a process that is 100% different than the way I lived my life up until about five years ago. I can’t ever just grab my wife on a last minute surprise and take her out to dinner. I have to set everything up way in advance if I want to do that. And while I don’t have the same problem most people have of trying to find a babysitter, I’m starting to wish I did have that issue. A babysitter doesn’t sit there, moan, and bitch about how everything went right when I get back through my door. You just give him or her the money, tell them thanks, and everyone is happy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with Tabitha for the evening and with five minutes left on our drive home an overwhelming feeling of doom has crept over me. Then we get home and walk into the hornets nest of mother-in-law BS and older kid arguments and everything’s a mess and she did this and he did that and you didn’t bring us back any food?, etc. What? I thought we were only gone for a couple of hours. It’s brutal. Before it was always about me, now, no matter what, it’s all about the kids. And I can deal with that. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. They are all totally worth it. It’s just sometimes I’d like to grab my keys and head out to get some lunch meat without it being an entire ordeal.
1. Living in Fear: This is by far the worst thing about being a parent. There are certain levels of this that apply to every father and mother out there. We all have a fear of our child being unhealthy even before he or she is born. I don’t know how many times I said, I don’t care about anything else just let him be healthy in the months, weeks, and days before my son was born. The same for my daughter a year and a half later. Just because I was lucky enough to have those wishes come true, doesn’t mean the fear of keeping them healthy has subsided. I’ve had multiple nightmares of nasty, deadly things happening to my little ones. We are very active outside during the days and I constantly worry about traffic, cars going too fast, or people backing out of their driveways not paying attention, as my little ones are riding their bikes around. I equate that to being my ‘normal’ sense of fear a father or parent carries around for the everyday livelihood and well-being of their child. That and worrying about your kids getting seriously ill or sick are pretty common and normal parental fears. But my biggest fear goes way beyond that for all four of my kids. As a white man, being black and living in America is something I can’t imagine. But make no mistake about it, my children are black. That’s how the world will always look them. Speaking of the world…how’s it looking as far as safety for black people these days? How much confidence do you think I should have just letting my 12-year-old ride his bike around the neighborhood by himself, without knowing exactly where he is all the time? Or how about every time he says something smart-ass to me at home?…How much should I worry that he’ll do the same thing in front of the wrong people one day and not make it back home? I’ve been a smart-ass my whole life and I’ve NEVER, ever had to worry about that. At the very worst I could maybe catch an ass-kicking every once in awhile if I got unlucky. My wife and I have to sit down and explain to him that he’s not allowed to get in the habit of talking back to us, not because it’s disrespectful, rude, or it makes us angry, but rather because it could become a reflex or a habit for him, and doing it in front of a police officer could mean he won’t make it home alive. I’ve never had any issues with police to where I felt I was unsafe or had to act a certain way to avoid getting killed or beat-up. We have to explain to him why he can’t wear certain hoodies and bandanas when he’s riding his bike around the neighborhood or walking to a friends house. How it didn’t work out so well for Trayvon Martin. We constantly have to pound home the point that he can never put himself in a bad position, always reminding him his uncle simply went out to buy some weed one night in Colorado and now is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Unjust of course, but never would have happened had he not put himself in that position. You think I’m joking or being too dramatic. I’m not. I’ve probably have 200 second chances in my life. It’s conceivable Travis won’t even get one. I have no idea how the world is gonna look a decade from now. It might be even worse than it is now. So I can almost guarantee we will have the same discussions with Harrison. And there’s no age limit on this thing. It follows the black man until death. I recently heard former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes say on ESPN Radio that she gets in her car and drives behind her son everyday he goes running, and prays while doing it, just to make sure he’s safe. She and her husband live somewhere outside of Houston in the countryside. Her son is 23 years old. If I heard that story five years ago I would’ve thought that’s the dumbest, most dramatic, paranoid thing I’d ever heard. As I sit here today I get it 100%. Especially when she went on to say her son was once followed by the local sheriff out there on the gravel roads he was running on. There was nothing around for miles. The sheriff followed him the whole time asking him abnormal questions like where he got his running shoes and if he knew how to get back to where he was going. When he finally got back home and Swoopes asked him what happened, he told his mother the sheriff followed behind him closely in his car the whole time until finally ripping away swiftly when he saw him turn towards the long driveway of the house. A Sheriff. On a gravel road. No one else around. For miles. Asking stupid questions. Making him feel uncomfortable. For no reason. What the fuck? No thank you. If I was in Swoopes position I’d be doing the exact same thing. And everything that’s on television now with so many people coming forward and telling their stories, and seeing how ugly everything has gotten…That’s the shit that keeps me up at night and makes me worried for my children’s safety the most. I really had no idea how bad racism was until recently. And my biggest fear is not that I won’t educate my kids and teach them what’s right and wrong and show them the hypocrisies in the system. It’s that I won’t be there for my kids when they are put to the test. And not passing the test, wussing out, or shying away from the big moment myself when something inevitably comes up around all of us.