I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
It’s weird being a dad. I never expected to like this job. Not even close. When my then girlfriend (now wife) told me she was pregnant, I was sad. I wasn’t ready to become an adult, to pay attention, to think bigger than past a bottle of beer.
There were growing pains, fuck ups and misunderstood intentions. It’s just a part of the process in parenting: you learn as you go, cause there ain’t no instruction manual with having a baby.
The spiral of change
But, when he popped out, the script was flipped. The cliché was true: someone flicked on the Dad Switch. In my hands, I held this little boy that I was personally responsible for.
You can get another dog, find a new religion, get a new boyfriend, or discover a new spot for tacos. You have a child and they are yours, as yours alone – there to be molded by your actions, decisions, choices, language, empathy, apathy and congenial attitude toward the survival and struggle of adulthood.
As I held my son for the first time, I cradled him and considered my options as a man: be like those barroom heroes who never knew their kids or become the man that answers the phone in the middle of the night, just because.
Idealism in the shadows of bruised knuckles, tough guy egos, and a one-finger salute
Growing up, we had no instruction for idealism, no outlet for who we were. On the south side of Chicago, you’re taught to work hard and be proud of it. While it’s a great asset to have, survivalist skills of the concrete jungles only go so far. To be different than my peers, I had to look beyond the borders of the high numbers streets and off toward a murky collective of misfits and outsiders to gain a real education.
I wanted to give my son more than I had; I wanted to be a typical parent. But, in essence that some give their children the gifts of toys, I wanted to give my son a chance to see the world through my teaching, my actions.
We used to cram bodies into the Fireside Bowl
We paid a small sum to see and hear our parvenu heroes tell us about politics, religions different than the clanging bells of our cobblestone churches, social issues, and causes. We learned that black people are not the enemy, that because someone doesn’t eat meat, they’re not a pussy. We learned that we don’t have to agree with our world and we can become the vehicle to change it.
We discovered a sense of community through music, and while those lessons and those memories are mine, I want to give that knowledge to my son.
I want him to know that by walking home from school, he won’t get murdered by a roving psycho as the news promises daily. I want him to know the world is scary, but he can make it less scary by love and honest actions, that a loud guitar through an amplifier can connect him deeper than any church, and that those kids he sweated alongside, could end up being friends he’d have till the grave.
Take nothing for granted
I want to give my son the information that he is valuable, not because he was born a blonde haired, blue eyed, cute baby boy – but because he will be raised to value women, to befriend the kid on the fringe and to always trust the values his father fought hard for. I didn’t want to end up with the rest of my classmates or family – I wanted more. I want more than ever for the sake of my little boy.
Maybe fatherhood is a love letter through mistakes or scribble-laden notebooks; I’m still working that part out. Maybe punk rock shows, heavy metal cassettes, and strong gang vocals at hardcore shows made me a good father; not because of the music, but because I was surrounded by people who challenged everything I knew.
Now, as I rock my son to sleep, I think about how I was scared to become a daddy. Today, I welcome the challenges, and I expect bumps in the road, but as long as my little man is healthy and happy – we’ll pop on a Naked Raygun record, father, and son, and we’ll figure it all out.
Track by track, year by year, action by reaction.