Photo: Cobra Libre
Episodic Musings on My Daily Failings as a Father.
So I was talking to my good friend Dominique over lunch.
She’s smart, beautiful, has her own popular website, and typically kicks my ass into gear. I bring her some soupy, vague ideas of why I’m a shitty dad and she crystallizes them into a form I can deal with.
She’s my psychic crack dealer; instead of nagging feelings of failure, I get one huge hit of guilt…and it’s gone in minutes.
Fresh off a deep inhale, it came to me in a hot rush: It’s not about my son.
It’s about me.
The reason I so desperately need to get him on the phone every day during his “week off” with his mother is that my shriveled little soul aches for the affirmations that only he can deliver. I want to hear Justice say,
Oh daddy dearest, delight of my heart, I miss you so much I can’t possibly become a better person without your wise instructions and it’s just no fucking fun when you’re not around because nobody else in the universe throws a ball reads a book or makes fun of the less fortunate as well as your magnificent self.
But Justice rarely says any of these things. If I really try, and debase myself with begging and a promise of ice cream, I can still coax a noncommittal
out of the little bastard. I love you is much harder. I love you has a fixed price: Two hours of Wii and a brand new Rawlings baseball.
He doesn’t even play with the balls, the little bastard. Instead, he collects them in an old laundry hamper in the back of his closet – nearly 200 monuments to his dad’s brittle ego and sad desperation.
Dominique tells me stop bartering for his affection, that I’m setting myself up for a fall each and every time. She tells me I have to be big enough to just know that my son loves me. She reminds me that I’m pressuring Justice to “perform” and screwing with his ability to appropriately express himself, that every time I beg him for an ego stroke, I’m setting his emotional development back 10 years and ensuring that he turns into a robotic, emotionless shell of a human.
And while I know she’s right, I doubt I’ll stop.
Because who do you think ends up eating most of the ice cream? That’s right, me.