I think there’s a pretty cool argument to make that I was, in fact, never cool. I wouldn’t put up a fight in that argument. But when you’re a dad and for almost two decades you -raise, nurture, intentionally play the clown for a laugh, build blanket forts in the living room, watch Disney cartoons even when you don’t want to, and generally just do whatever you can to keep your child/children safe, happy, and content – there is an element of cool added to your resume.
Now just because you procreated and made a baby doesn’t give you cool status. You have to earn that cool badge as a parent. Dead beat dads, moms that split, and just any parent that doesn’t uphold the unwritten rules of parent-dom(essentially, being there for your kids and raising them to be polite, thoughtful adults) will never see that cool badge. You failed, so I guess your only chance at redemption is to make it up with your grandkids(and only if the child your scorned gives you that privilege.)
So what is all this “cool” talk, anyways? Well, after 22 years in the raising kids trenches I’m feeling my work here is no longer needed. A daughter at 22, post-college, pre-grad school, another daughter at 19, living on her own getting ready to start night classes and working as a nanny during the day, and a son that’s 17 and starting his senior year of high school and just starting marching band season. All very independent and none in need of blanket forts, bedtime stories, or any interest in Disney cartoons(thank God.) And yet, I’m still playing a clown.
These are problems all parents face; the impending realization that you’re back to square one in your life. Except, last time you were there you were 20 years younger with not nearly as many physical and psychic scars. 20 years of your life raising kids puts a lot of dings, scratches, and cracks on the sheen of your existence. Surgeries, tragedies, anxiety struggles, and PLENTY of financial worries took my then 27-year old mind and body and turned them into something more hardened, heart-heavy, yet somehow far more resilient. That 27-year old “kid” back in May of 2000 had no idea what was coming his way. He wasn’t prepared for the extreme highs and lows and everything in-between. The struggle between the freedom of no kids vs the locked in insanity of three little ones under 5 years old,…that’s the kind of life experience that cannot be shared through words. It’s like war films vs the real thing: you have to be in the shit, to truly understand the shit.
So after 22 years of being caregiver, bodyguard, scholarly mentor, disciplinarian, and stand-up comic for three kids, it feels like it’s all of a sudden just ended. My kids are still here, we still talk and laugh and enjoy being together, but now I don’t feel like the all-knowing Yoda sharing wisdom and knowledge. I feel like a middle-aged, overweight, and out-of-shape schlep standing next to a red-headed giant in the kitchen as he puts dinner on his plate. I feel like we’re closing a door on one phase, and I won’t be of any much use again until my dad badge gets turned in and replaced with a grandpa badge.
There will still be the occasional “Hey, how do you fill this out?” question, or “How should I go about doing this?” remark. And my still working muscles will be needed to move kids in and out of various dorms, apartments, and homes, but as I get older I imagine that will get harder as well. My dad was 50 when he helped my wife and I move into our house back in 1996. I’ll be 50 in less than two years. Not sure if anyone will be moving into a home by then. Maybe. I don’t know.
The last week I felt pretty awful. Sore, out of shape, and in a generally bad spot mentally. Seeing it all go by so fast and not understanding how to slow it down or how to get caught up to it. It being time and life and the general existence on this earth. I hadn’t been working out like I was. Probably been two weeks since I’d been on a regular daily routine. In just that short amount of time I feel like my whole body has locked up on me. A good portion of this is mental. I’m always sore on some level thanks to a back that will never be 100%, but if I’m moving daily then the pain and stiffness lessens greatly. But being in this mental funk I’m not motivated like I should be.
I think I’ve worked through the stagnancy. The last two days I’ve gotten in two 5 mile walks and it felt good. I told my wife yesterday we need to invest in a quality treadmill for the house. While I’m still working, we need to invest in our health. That’s what we’re going to do. We have a Y membership, but honestly I can’t stand going there. It’s crowded, and lots of bro-grunting in the free weights area keep me from using the place to it’s full potential. And honestly since Covid spaces with lots of sweating, panting people isn’t the most appealing place for me to be. I love walking outside, but that’s not possible everyday. Since we no longer have an ozone layer protecting us from direct sunlight, those outdoor walks get pretty harsh.
We’re entering a new phase, time to evolve with the phase. That phase includes a new treadmill in the spare bedroom.
I know, I know, this is pretty lame stuff. Out of shape, overweight, sadsack talk about kids growing up and dad not being needed for fort building and changing out one DVD for the next. Not cool, right?
Well, I told you I’m not cool anymore.