I write here for many reasons. I write to express myself and to log the remarkable experience of life. To find beauty and its opposite. To connect and to process. To show off. To evolve. To have a canvas on which I can consciously and purposefully try to understand the meaning of what’s happening here.
One of the reasons is for my kids. Whatever happens to me and Karen I would hope that this record would be something they can look at and find out what it was like in their prehistory and understand something of who their father, the old though still plucky man they love, was before the time they became interested in asking such questions.
I’m attempting to show as much honesty as I can tolerate about my failings and shortcomings as well, in order to put indelible marks over my mistakes so I can remember them when I get frustrated with their mistakes and meanderings.
As I sit here today, 20 or so posts in, Charlie almost 4 and Teddy almost 2, I fear I’ve given short shrift to my precious baby boy, Teddy. While I experience more with Charlie as he navigates transitions none of us have seen before, this obvious fodder for exploration I’m afraid has left me with a small body of work that tilts heavily towards my feelings in the context of my precious big boy, and I want to correct, at least somewhat, this oversight.
Teddy has been, is and will always be a beautiful heart-opening gift who has irreversibly made my life fuller, more beautiful and more meaningful. What he will get from us will be different and in many ways better than what we are able to give Charlie, as Charlie has been tasked with the job of teaching us how to be parents.
With Teddy we are less afraid, more open and present. Charlie is forever encountering life from the tip of the spear and is thus pulling us forward through the experience. Teddy is teaching us to swim, afloat in each moment, trusting our abilities enough to set aside some fears and be present for every joyous second.
While we would never, at least not yet, rule anything out, by all estimations this will be our family unit. Mom, Dad and two sons. So while he may not replicate my role as middle child and we will in no way resemble my gigantic family of origin (I have taken to telling others that I call the boys, respectively, ‘first and last’) his will be the role that may get the shaft. I don’t like the language, but the many therapists I’ve known and in much of the articles I’ve read on the matter the language of saying what the middle child’s experience is are nearly universal in their use of the phrase, ‘the middle child gets the shaft.’
I’m afraid that in reviewing this body of work, to this point, I’m now in the uncomfortable position of in fact giving the shaft. I have a fear that this boy will grow up to the man he will be and his curiosity will lead him here, to his dad’s writing, and he’ll do the math and see post after post referring to Charlie and he’ll be heartsick.
I love my little Teddy, to no end. I am present and available and with him much if not more of the time than I am with Charlie. But inevitably Charlies natural role is that of explorer as he is going places none of us have been, at least not in our current capacity, and as such I’m afraid his experiences dominate much of mine and possibly our collective focus and attention.
This is starting to change. Teddy is a spark and he is now lighting up every room he enters, giving hugs and kisses if not freely then judiciously but with great accompanying fanfare. He is also becoming the bright and vibrant little boy we always knew he would be and his cute precociousness is now the dominant trait in the room.
We worry how Charlie, our playful but temperamentally more serious boy is reacting to this, but often too late to really account for it.
I don’t know what life will hold for our guys, but I certainly have a great deal of faith that they are going to be wonderful and thoughtful men. I’ve shared much of my concerns and will continue to do so in regard to Charlie and his constant, unavoidable pushing into new frontiers. My fears for Teddy are much more inline with my pent up resentments and frustrations and unmet needs then I care to think. And now that I’m the damn paterfamilias I have a great deal more understanding as to how and why I am the way I am, was treated the way I was and am able only now in hindsight to let go of so much of the anger I had at my perception of being less then perfectly attended to.
I was and am in fact evidence of what I now understand was the perfect and herculean effort my parents made and accomplished in raising six children into thoughtful, caring and competent adults. Not to mention the efforts they made at providing portions of the same for at least 3 other individuals, and if you were to poll even more passersby in my youth I know that number would grow.
I want to speak to my future children and let them know that it’s okay to be angry and to feel needing of more. I want them to know that while details are different, emotionally speaking my experience was like theirs and at the worst moments of self doubt and low self-regard, they should remember that good old dad, the dad they once idolized, once pitied, were frequently angered and frustrated by and whom I hope they eventually came to be proud of and love, as so many of us lucky ones eventually do, was once just as messed up and unsure of himself as they are at times.
In all likelihood I still will question my ability and the rightness of both my thinking and my actions. If there’s a lesson to that understanding I hope its this. Don’t be hard on yourself. Pain and mistake making and regret are the price you pay for self acceptance and joy. I don’t think anyone ever gets to a place where they can sustain feelings of contentment, so observe, acknowledge and soak up all the positive energy you can from those times when they arrive as they will sustain you at different points of your journey.
They are so different. At least at this early stage. If I had to bet on it I’d guess that Charlie will grow up to have an office in his house, if not a den and that Teddy will have something more like a media center or man-cave. At one point before having kids I might have thought I’d have a preference in this regard, but now that they are here and present I can truly say I look forward so much to having the opportunity to know both of them and feel privileged to be along for the rides that they are taking us on. I love them each as much as a person can love anything.
Its part of my journey now and this moment, though at times uncomfortable and occasionally unpleasant has left me with little doubt that this is where I’m most meant to be. These are the lives that will give mine context and purpose and meaning and I hope that I’m around long enough for them to grow up and understand this.
But if I’m not, if for some unforeseen reason they are left to the stories of others and their own investigations I hope that this place provides each of them some understanding and context about who and what I was. That if anything it shows them how very wonderful being imperfect can be. After all, it’s the gift they’ve given to me.