My oldest son Matt turns six at 10:24 this evening. With maybe the exception of my own birthday, March 9, 2003 is the most important date in my life.
I am not going to wax poetic about the virtues of fatherhood. Fatherhood is what it is. Its a mostly thankless job wherein the rewards are few and far between.
Some might guess that having an absent father is why the day is so important. Wrong again. Although me not having a father around definitely impacted every aspect of my upbringing (read here), not having him around may have been for the best. He was not the most stable, nor upstanding individual (criminal, actually).
If its not love of fatherhood or being the "dad I never had", then what could it be?
I have led a semi-charmed kind of life. The first twenty were tough. Real tough. The next eighteen were lived with complete onanistic abandon (read here, here and here, and here). My first twenty years I bore responsibilities no kid should have to bear. (If you are a regular reader you've heard some of the horror stories, if new read here, here and here) I helped raise my brothers and sisters when my mother had checked out emotionally first and physically later on. When I had enough, I overcompensated and focused on my own needs to the point that no one else mattered. Not even my wife, who had helped me transition from adolescence to adulthood and helped spur me along to independence.
The driving force behind my self-absorption was my competency. I am one of those people to whom everything comes easy.
I have never had problems making friends. Girls, no problem. I maintained straight A's through fifth grade (except penmanship; you can't BS penmanship) and once I realized that I could get B's by simply listening in class, I rarely did any studying and only homework when necessary. I am good at all sports. I didn't pick up a golf club till I was 30 except for an occasional bucket at the driving range and within a year of playing I was shooting in the eighties. I have had some of the best jobs just fall into my lap. Summer camp counselor, after school coordinator, youth sports director, right up to my current job. Never the best paying, but jobs where the quality of life is so good that friends making three times as much have been enviable. I lived the "life of Reily" until March 9, 2003, because I could.
On March 9, 2003 it was the first time in eighteen years that I turned my focus outward. It was time to disengage the pause button and start the process of reciprocity. I welcomed the responsibility before me, but more than that, I welcomed the challenge. I honestly wasn't personally challenged by something since studying for a passing the entrance exam to Boston Latin (a prestigious Boston "exam" school) when I was in sixth grade (unfortunately I got my acceptance letter forwarded to me after we moved 100 west of Boston, to Northampton Mass, that summer).
I'm not complaining. The fact that things come easy for me makes life with kids easier than most. I have an extremely flexible job which allows me more time with my kids than any dad I know and most moms. My modest upbringing taught me to not want for much materially, so we live within our means. Life is as good as it was before Matt, but in a different way. I feel better about myself. I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. Being challenged as a parent every day is more rewarding to me than scoring playoff tickets, getting on an exclusive golf course or being the last one standing after a night of drinking. I would love to get World Series tickets, play Pebble Beach or binge drink in Vegas, but I don't have time right now. I have more important things to do.
"An idle brain is the devil's workshop" is an old English proverb. After a successful eighteen year run the workshop is closed.
Thanks Lori and Matthew for changing my life...for the better.