Sunday, June 19, 2011

Parenting?...Where are the Cliff Notes?

I became a parent about 23 years and 8 months ago.  I was old for my age, or at least I thought I was.  As I look back, age 16 was age 16; there was nothing “old” about it… but then again, most 16-year-olds will tell you differently; they’re supposed to, it’s in the Cliff notes version of The Guide to being 16: How to survive and not kill your parents either (just maim them.)

At age 16 becoming a parent was easy; 30 seconds and 9 months later… well, actually being a parent at 16 was the hard part, really hard.  Teenager’s lives are supposed to change quickly, however throw in a newborn and the word change does not even begin to describe the truth.  Change?  Yes, change…and I’m not even talking about dirty diapers in the middle of night.

When we go outside the norms of society our relationships change.  My relationship with my parents changed.  My relationship with my siblings changed.  My relationship with my friends changed.  My relationship with my friend’s parents changed.  The appearance of the ring finger on my left hand changed. 

What do we do when our relationships change?  Do we change with them, or are we held back as we struggle to recreate something that can’t be recreated?  Do we grow in the moment or do we choose to let these opportunities set our relationships back a decade to two? Bell bottoms and VW Bugs came back strong, but relationships can be another story.

I would not have ever survived being a dad at age 16 if not for my family.  I cherished their support (and still do), but it was never easy. Change is painful and depending on how flexible you are things can easily break.  There I was a scared 16 year old secretly listening in on the conversation as my parents told some members of my extended family that things had changed and that a new life would be coming into the world.  After my parents told the tale, one of my relatives said, “What are we going to do about this?”  I went to bed that night in tears.

A week or so later that same question was said, or implied, in front of my grandmother who without hesitation said something along the lines of, “What do you mean what are we going to do about this? We are going to support these two kids in their decision to get married and we are going to love that new baby when it is born just as we have loved the rest of our children in this family.” (She was such a Tweety and that was before Twitter. She was her own social network which usually began with “Yoo-hoo…Tweety”)

I always had a special relationship with my grandma, but our relationship changed that day too; it got even better.  I had a southern bell cheerleader in my corner and that’s all I really needed; that’s all anyone really needs; one good cheerleader to keep you going and pointed in the right direction.  Chin up, shoulders back, stand tall.

Today is Father’s Day.  I would not be where I am today without my Dad and his wisdom and calming presence in my life.  I would also not be where I am today if it were not for becoming a dad myself 23 years and 8 months ago…and again 10 years and 6 months ago with my second son…and again 4 years ago this August when “gotcha” day finally came and I got a daughter, my Asian sensation, who is named after that southern bell great grandmother of hers.  Though Grandma has been gone for over 11 years, I think some of that spunk and spirit lives on in this fireball little girl that is either going to keep me young, or maim me…only time will tell.

Change…relationships change… and if we embrace that change when it comes good things can happen.  I would not wish the change of being a teenage parent on anyone, but for me, I would not change a thing.  That change was life-giving in more ways than one.

I hope you had a great Father’s Day, because I sure did.


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