Tag Archives: Sons

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The younger son left for the start of college Friday morning, making us officially an empty nest.

No. 1 son graduated and moved out last year.

With the departure of No. 2 son, it means we no longer have to worry about:

  • Lights needlessly being left on in rooms, especially when no one is there.
  • Turning down the thermostat in his room during the winter. I swear, tropical plants were thriving in there.
  • Overflowing garbage.
  • The boy spores he left in the shower.
  • The hair products, colognes and various cleansers that crowded the bathroom sink.
  • Finding empty boxes of food left behind in cabinets.
  • Staying up late at night waiting for him to return home.
  • Trying to figure out when he will be home for dinner so we can eat together as a family.
  • Seeing empty bottles of water pile up in his room like some weird modern art exhibit.

But guess what? I’m going to miss him not being around.

I will miss:

  • Learning a thing or three about colorful cussing.
  • His endlessly entertaining, richly detailed, hilarious accounts about his encounters working with the public. What a story-teller!
  • Watching up-close as he interacted with his wide circle of friends, supporting them, enjoying their company and being there for them.
  • His snarky sense of humor. When I complained that he blocked me from following him on Twitter, I was told: “I block with love, padre.”
  • That he calls me “padre.”
  • Watching him grow into his independence as he worked two jobs, got a car and successfully sought scholarships for school.

Godspeed at school, son. Do good. You already have.

Love,

Dad (Padre)

 

 

Related posts:

The Kids Are All Right. Truly.

On Being a Dad and Facing an Empty Nest

 

 

On Being a Dad and Facing an Empty Nest

There is a memorable story told about my late fiancée and her son that goes like this:

Garth was in his 20s and headed out for a night on the town.

He was primping himself in front of a mirror.

His mother, (my late fiancée), Carla said something to him and he cracked wise or sarcastic.

She came up behind him and smacked him in the back of the head — even though he had about five inches on her.

Garth wheeled around and angrily asked: “Whatdidja do that for?!”

Her reply?

“You will never be too old or too big that I’m not your mother!”

It remains a memorable story because it speaks to Carla’s spirit (let’s just say she did not take guff from anyone) but it also embodies an important lesson I am learning as a dad who will soon face an empty nest.

Our younger son is a high school senior and will be in college by the late summer.

He has his own car, a wide circle of friends and is active in numerous extracurricular activities.

Translation: My wife and I don’t see too much of him. When we do, we try to make the most of the time together.

Our older son graduated from college in the spring, landed a job 10 days before graduation and has been on his own and out of state since last July.

The days of us having to hand-hold or ferry “the boys” around to different school events or social engagements are over.

And in many ways, at least right now, I miss that.

As a dad, being there for them and being the one who looked out for them day-to-day was my raison d’être.

The core missions of looking out for the lads’ well-being, care, feeding and upbringing defined my role as a parent for two decades.

Now, suddenly — poof!

It feels as if I am wearing a pair of those “beer goggles” they give kids in driver’s education to mimic the feel of drunken driving: My view of reality has been twisted and distorted.

So it came as something of a relief (and a sense of still being needed) when No. 1 son recently called and emailed about a low-level emergency after being locked out of his first apartment.

Much to his credit, he was collected and clear-headed and was merely looking for some advice about navigating the situation with his landlord. (It turned out that the lock was installed incorrectly and malfunctioned.)

I recall once when I was standing on line at a supermarket with the boys when they were about 12 and 7.

A veteran parent ahead of me struck up a conversation.

I recall well what she said: “The older kids get, the more complicated and more expensive the problems become.”

Yes, that is certainly true.

But what I’m also learning is that they’ll never get too old or too big that I’ll ever stop being their dad.

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On Father’s Day, Recalling a Son Growing Up

Maybe it’s because I’ve been a newsman my entire adult life and I’m a chronicler of life events.

It might explain how I had the presence of mind to write down things my oldest son said and did as he was growing up that were cute, memorable or funny.

The first entry dates to when he was 3 ½ years old and continued until he was about 6 years old.

So for Father’s Day, indulge this old man by letting him share with you a sample of memorable “Michaelisms.”

Happy Father’s Day!

***

December 1996: Michael soaked Daddy while taking a bath. Daddy was not amused and said:

“Michael, I’m not laughing.”

“But I am,” said Michael.

***

December 1996: Michael came home with a Jewish star he made in school. It was hanging on the Christmas tree when Daddy got home from work.

“Oh,” said Daddy, “you made a Star of David.”

“No Daddy, it’s mine,” said Michael.

***

January 1997: Michael for breakfast has taken to eating chocolate-covered granola bars. He calls them “gorilla bars.”

***

January 1997: Michael and Daddy are heading into school. Daddy greets another parent good morning in the lobby. Michael turns to Daddy and says: “You can’t talk to strangers like that.”

***

Summer 1997: Michael says that heaven is in Disney World.

***

November 1997: Michael refers to nostrils as “smeller holes.” And told to put away his toys, he announced: “Let’s take a vote!”

***

January 1998: Michael goes to Daddy’s doctor with Daddy because Daddy is sick. Michael wants to know if grown-ups are good at the doctor’s, do they get stickers?

***

January 1998:  Michael tells Daddy that he has had the same dream two nights in a row. But forgetful Daddy cannot recall what Michael had told him. (Michael had described the dream in Technicolor detail the day before but Daddy did not retain it.)

Michael says: “Daddy, your brain works slow. My brain works fast.”

He then put his hand to his forehead and then put the same hand to Daddy’s head.

With that gesture, Michael says: “Here, Dad, have some of my fast brains.”

***

July 1998: Michaels asks who Dino is. Dino? What do you mean? Michael says: “You know – someone’s in the kitchen with Dino…”

***

October 1998: Michael tells his babysitter that he watched the Fourth of July fireworks (“America’s birthday”) on TV because he couldn’t look out his window to see America because it was too far away.

***

August 1999: Michael spots the club Daddy keeps under the bed in case of intruders. Michael wants to know what it’s for.

Daddy tells him if there is anyone who comes to the house who doesn’t belong there, Daddy will greet them with this.

Wisely, Michael asks: “Why would you greet them if they don’t belong here?!”

***

June 2015: Michael turns 22, and, having just graduated from college, is about to begin his professional career at a job eight hours and five states away from home.

Daddy will miss him.

mike grad

 

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A Father’s Day Poem

A Father, a Son
(for Jackson)

I — an atomic collection culled from a universe of green stamps and cathode ray tubes
— stay.

You — atoms collected from a different universe of ration books and radios — go first.

Before me, you were.
Because of you, I am.

You made me, a son.
And I made you a father, but
who is this ladder I must climb?
A Priam, who could only love out loud when his son, Hector, died?Joseph of Bethlehem, who had no son of his own?
Maybe Luke’s father, a cripple who believed he should cripple his son?
Or Calvin T. Underwood, whose son would become president and piss on his gravestone?

Some fathers are like that.
And sons?
How few are as lucky Telemachus, whose father chooses him to fight for the honor of their house?
Is this the secret that we share? To weave our love through time and longing? To be, at last, chosen?
Are all fathers like Odysseus to young hungry sons? Absent and traveling?
Never home, homeward bound?

But in this telling, we are the travelers:
hurtling through time
urgent as spring cataracts
slamming the rock.

Fathers and sons must travel great distances to meet as equals —
it is our great romance.
But the ladder is a lie:
The boy becomes a man as the man grows old.

In some long-forgotten sedimentary layer of myself, a cast-off chrysalis, you were the world I crawled, toddled and ran to.
You were the man whose long strides I stretched to match.

The women have their fairy tales of handsome princes.
We have heroes: G.I. Joe, Batman and you —

gone again
to test the water in the tub.

 

Meg McGuire is the wife of AMR contributor Christopher Mele.

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Bear: Another Wildlife Visitor to Our House

I swear to God, I am running at home something of a cross between “Animal House” and an episode of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”

You will recall the freaky intruder we had with a bat invading the house. (“I’m Batman”) And that all unfolded while I was on the way back from work from New York City and could do nothing about it.

That was a walk in the woods compared to what happened while my wife and I were visiting her daughter in the San Francisco area.

My cellphone rings while we are visiting Alacatraz and it’s my oldest son, who just graduated from college.

He opens the conversation with “Hypothetically….”

Let me interrupt the narrative here to say that nothing good ever follows an opening like that. And, of course, there is never anything hypothetical about what is to come next.

“Hypothetically,” he says, “what should we do if we had a visit from a bear?”

He proceeds to tell me that the door to the large shed that houses our garbage cans was open and he could see garbage strewn about.

(Take a close look at the bite marks on that Hershey syrup bottle!)

image

image

He called public safety, which arrived and assured him that the bruin was gone.

But the thing that kills me is that for 10 years I have preached to the boys about the importance of keeping the lids on the cans securely attached and making sure the garbage bags go INTO the cans. What a concept!

So here I am, 3,000 miles away, trying to coach him through the steps of what to do, which led to this exchange:

image

 

My concern is that once a bear is imprinted on a site as a source of food, it will make repeat visits. (Each of the houses adjoining us had been broken into by bears repeatedly.)

Like lamb’s blood marked on thresholds during the first Passover, Michael essentially opened up a fire hose of ammonia (said to repel bears) on the door, the doorway, the footing outside the shed, the doorknob, etc.

That led to this text message:

image

Yeah, agreed. But it beats the smell of bear scat and rotting garbage.

My Son Blocks Me on Twitter…The Indignity!

A scene at the end of an episode of “Modern Family” has the character Claire (the mother of three) complaining that the kids unfriended her again on Facebook and how then is she supposed to know what is going on in the kids’ lives?

It crystallized for me something I have experienced with my sons: The oldest used to be pretty active on Facebook but has all but disappeared (he is away at college) and the youngest (soon to be 17), blocks me on Twitter!

Blocked 2

When I asked about this recently, he emailed me to say that “I block with love, padre.”

It makes me awfully split-brained, with the conversation going something like this:

Rational Me: What do you expect? He is almost 17. When you were almost 17, would you have wanted to share your remarks with friends with your dad?

Emotional Me: No, of course not. But I am a cool dad. I understand social media and it’s not like I would stalk every tweet he posted.

Rational Me: Really?! I find that hard to believe…

Emotional Me: OK, well maybe I would look at every other one…Besides, it is another indication of how he is coming into his own and becoming his own person.

Rational Me: Yeah, dummy. You are the one always preaching that parenthood is about giving kids roots and wings.

Emotional Me: Oh yeah. Right.

What is your relationship like with your kids vis a vis social media?

Are you friends with them? Do you follow them on Twitter or Instagram? Or do they block out you in the virtual world as much they do in the real world?

Write us at amr@amrshow.com and share your story…assuming you have not blocked us on social media.

From Boys to Men

On my cellphone, under contacts, is a listing labeled “boys.”

The contact is an artifact of 10 years ago when my sons got a cellphone for emergencies. It was a flip phone that they shared since they both went to the same school.

Then they were ages 12 and 7.

boys

Today, of course, they are each outfitted with their own smartphones, in which they tweet, text, Facebook, Skype and engage in all manner of communications.

I have kept the entry “boys” as my contact for my oldest son even though it is hopelessly out of date.

He is no longer a boy but a young man on the cusp of graduating college and embarking on a career and life that will involve less and less of me and my wife.

Up to about five years ago, I felt that time was accelerating like a sled going down a steep hill but that time for my sons was moving at a languid pace.

Now, the pages in the chapters of their lives are flipping forward furiously like what you see in the opening credits of “Masterpiece Theater.” And the pace of my life suddenly feels like a leisurely thumbing through the pages of the newspaper.

In the second to last episode of this season’s “Downton Abbey,” Mary, the oldest daughter, remarks on the sweeping  changes taking place in the household.

Though Mary was commenting on a fictional setting, she might well have been talking about real life.

In the early years, your role as a dad is defined around the waking hours of your kids: Breakfast, school, after school, dinner, bedtime, leisure time, weekend trips, time spent visiting with family, etc.

And then, one day, you discover that managing those activities has been taken away from you. Your kids have become self-actualized.

For me, the change is marked by the morning ritual of getting them to the school bus stop.

Ten years ago, when we first moved to our house and a new school district, I stood and waited with them for the bus.

Then it became just bringing them to the stop, minus waiting for the bus.

Then it became them piling out of the car, saying so long to me and me driving off.

And now? The oldest is at college and the youngest, a high school junior, is driving himself to school — in his own car.

The transition from needed dad to dad as optional accessory has left me feeling bereft. In the vacuum that has been created, what’s next?

That uncertainty is scary because now I have more time (and psychic space) to find out more about myself and who I am supposed to be in this next phase of my life.

My wife described it as parenting as planned obsolescence.

If you do your job right, you are no longer strictly defined as being a dad, although, of course, you still hold that title no matter how old your kids get. It’s just that how the role is defined is dramatically different.

Perhaps in recognition of this, the first thing I should do is change the entry on my phone contacts from “boys” to “men.”

CSI: Chocolate Scene Investigations

This is what happens when you come home way after midnight from work, and eat chocolate candy that was given as a gift to your son.

You wake up in the morning to discover he’s made a federal case out of it, right down to roping off the “crime scene” and inventorying the “evidence” with little cards.

Here’s one exhibit of a wadded-up candy wrapper I had left behind.IMG_1561

Then there is the bag that once had contained chocolate.candy 2

Rotten kid.

Clearly next time I have to do a better job of hiding the evidence.

Urp!

 

 

 

 

 

I am an Older Dad and That’s Okay

What follows is the tale of my inspiring, gripping, and emotional journey from fretful Older Dad to just plain old Dad. The subtitle should read “How I stopped Worrying and Started Being There for my Kids”

Okay, the story isn’t really all that gripping, and it isn’t very emotional either, but I do indulge in way more “prosaic introspection” than the author of this Wall Street Journal article—despite what the reader comments claim.

That being said, I believe my adventures in middle-age parenting might just lean towards the inspiring side.

I fall squarely into the “Older Dad” category having waited until the chronological age of 42 to make my wife large with child. I was, again chronologically, 46 years old when my spouse informed me I should start getting those diaper changing muscles loosened up again.

By the way, I stress “chronological” because if you ask any of my ex-wives or former girlfriends, they’ll argue that emotionally and intellectually I’ve yet to make it past my awkward teen years.

But never mind all that, let’s get back to the inspirational.

My guess is that there’s at least a full 15-year age difference between me and most of the other dads at the neighborhood playground. It doesn’t bother me much anymore but it was a constant concern when my daughter was a toddler.

There was more than a little self-consciousness about being a graybeard among all the young bucks and I was convinced all eyes were on the old geezer as he watched after his rambunctious daughter.

Maybe all those youthful poppas with their youth and their youthfulness secretly hoped I wouldn’t fall down and break a hip. I imagined they fervently wished to be spared the awkwardness of having to explain to their little ones why that old man was being carted away by the FDNY.

More and more, I found myself parking my butt on a bench and shooing my little girl away, insisting that she play with her new toddler friends.

It killed me every time my shmoopee hid her obvious disappointment and shuffled off to find a new playmate. My beautiful little daughter didn’t see a middle-aged man struggling with his insecurities, all she wanted to do was hang out with her poppa.

The transformation into a hesitant putz that worried about what others would think was complete. Where was the confident and ballsy Bronx kid who insisted on playing by his own rules?

Thankfully, that kid showed up again just when I needed him most.

Like_Bosses

It was a huge disservice to me and to my daughter. By creating imaginary slights and not experiencing the total joy of daddyhood with my baby girl while she still thought her grumpy old dad was the coolest guy in the world, I was losing out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I got my ass off that park bench and started playing with my sweet little Miss. I wore the pink boas and the princess crowns. I attended the pretend tea parties and unfailingly extended my pinky. I ran after her and paid little attention to how foolish or how silly I may have looked. I was a goofy dad and it was a blast.

Turns out those young fathers I was so concerned about could not have cared less.

The decision to wait until I was mature enough to raise a family was the right one. Oats were sown and challenges were undertaken and ya-ya’s were gotten out. That could not, and would not, have happened if there were mouths to feed at home in my younger days.

That’s not to say I don’t suffer the occasional flash of panic when the realization sets in that I’ll be close to 70 years old when my kids are in college. I’m keeping myself healthy and fiscally responsible for their future so there’s no use wasting time on worrying about things I can’t control.

What I can control is how much quality time I spend with them. I listen to their stories, tell them a few of my own, and act the fool.

When it’s my turn to kick it, I’ll kick it hard and with full-confidence knowing that I did all I could for my family.

Well, this was my inspirational story. The story of a family man with two young kids who is past the half-century mark, has no regrets, and will never suffer from the “what ifs”. He just took awhile to get there.

As the old neighborhood saying goes: I ain’t even sorry about it.

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Sled. Gloves. Boots. Condoms. …Condoms?!

I discovered a connection between the snow on my rooftop (the white hair, not dandruff, thank you) and the blizzard swirling outside.

Here it is:

Upon learning that school would be closed, our youngest, a high school junior, was soon coming upstairs to announce that he would be spending time playing with friends in the snow.

Good, clean, outdoor fun. Yea! Great!

But when we started to explore what time he would be home and how he would get home in a raging snowstorm, plans suddenly shifted.

He was back upstairs a short time later to announce that he would be staying overnight at the house of his friend, who happens to be a girl.

And who else will be staying there, I asked, my eyebrows arching.

Oh, so-and-so, he says, naming yet another girl.

And what will be the sleeping arrangements, I ask, my eyebrows now arching in a way that would make McDonald’s envious.

Let me pause here to say that my son is an extraordinarily responsible young adult, sociable, outgoing and an excellent student. And the girls he named are likewise.

They are just a tremendous bunch of kids that any parent would be proud of.

It’s just that when it comes to his old man, my son is such a rotten kid.

Presented with the opportunity to bust my stones, he will seize it with a grip worthy of Darth Vader.

So my inquiry about the sleeping arrangements was an engraved invitation to turn my already white hair even more white.

And then, have it fall out completely.

“Oh,” he says, a big grin breaking out, “we’re all going to sleep together. There will be sex. There will be so much sex, the house will be coming apart.”

My ever-so-helpful wife (not one to let a moment like this slip by) chimed in: “They will be humping like rabbits.”

Me: “I hate you both.”

My son: “Oh yeah, no worries. I’ll be coming home with two pregnant girls.”

My wife: “Just don’t come home with herpes.”

At this point, it was hard to hear anything because I had gone face-first, up to my ears, into my bowl of oatmeal.

Then, as he’s preparing to leave and we’re going through the checklist of things that he should make sure he has for his stay, he calls out as he’s walking down the stairs:

“Hey Dad, how many condoms do you think I should bring?!”

That’s when I went bald.

Rotten kid.

I cannot imagine where he gets it from.

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This S*** Just Got Real

Under the heading of “Did that just happen?” comes this development:

Our youngest son (Dan, 16) aced his road test and got his driver’s license.

As a dad, I was aware that he was taking the road test but put it on my mental backburner in the hopes it might fall behind the stove.

Yeah. No such luck.

He nailed the road test on the first try.

Not only that, but he’s saved up enough money to buy a decent used car and is actively searching for one.

There’s a part of me that’s like: Wow! That’s great, Dan! We’re so proud of you. This is really a milestone achievement and a mark of your growing young adulthood and independence.

And there’s another part of me that’s going: Whoa! This shit just got real! Are you ker-azy?! You’re 16. And yes, legally you can drive, but is this really a good idea?

Well, that question got tested tonight when he asked (begged) if he could drive to the nearby McDonald’s to meet a friend for dinner.

It’s an 8-minute drive. For me, it might as well have been 800 miles.

Disclosure: Full, 1,000 percent credit goes to my wife Meg for taking Dan out practice driving in rain storms, in snow, when she was tired, etc. She instilled in him the confidence and experience he needed to do as well as he did.

Me? I was busy doing something that my nerves could better handle like clearing out wasps’ nest — while naked.

So yes, tonight Dan took his first solo drive. In the dark. To McDonald’s.

When I posted this development on Facebook, Super Dad aka About Men Radio contributor Richard Rodriguez, whose oldest has his own car, wrote from experience:

I wish I can skip this part of my kids growing up.

Thankfully, I took Dan’s first solo outing all in stride. As proof:

As I was making dinner, I put the microwave on for 2.5 minutes. And left the bowl of oatmeal that it was supposed to be cooking on the kitchen counter.

And at the same time, I turned on the Keurig to make coffee. And when it was done, I realized that I had l left the previous coffee pouch in the machine and forgot to install a new one, which meant I had a mug of pale brownish fluid.

No, not nervous at all. Why do you ask?

Meg and I talk all the time about parenting and how it’s all about giving our children roots and wings:

Roots so that they feel secure where they are planted, and wings to give them the independence they desire and need.

In the case of tonight, Dan’s short trip was a test flight – one of many more to come.