Last night, Tananarive was out of the house doing a podcast. As often happens, when one or the other of us is gone, Jason gets talkative, came into the bedroom while I was watching the last act of THE SHOOTIST and we chatted about life, business, and stuff. He is so proud of his new grades, and I can see the wheels starting to turn in his head.
Clear Goal: “B” Average
Why? To prepare himself for life (long term). To get an Iphone 8 or X (short term)
How: Do his homework and classwork, turn it in every day. EVERY day.
His backpack used to be a blizzard of rumpled, crumpled paper jammed into every crevice, with no way to find anything. It is neat now. We were fighting to double-check every assignment, but the new high school has the “Aeries” program so we can check on-line. We can communicate via email with his teachers, and identified the critical teacher who seemed to be the key to his issues, and met with him.
What: “B” Average
Why: long and short-term pleasure, avoidance of long and short term pain.
How: do and turn in his work every day.
Just that, with the skills he has now, is getting him a “B” average. Just wait until he learns some advanced study and organization skills!
But back to the story. I remembered the horrible battles I had with him EVERY SINGLE DAY to get him to read. He STILL does not read for fun, dammit. Except for subtitles on Anime. Yeah, I noticed that, and we actually went through a period where I let him read THOSE off the screen for credit. But he clearly has no problems at all now, even if only at school. The fear of disappointing me made him “freeze up” when it was time to perform at home. I mean real, deep, raving terror. Something inside him associated the reading with love. It was a way his connection to me was at risk. HE DARED NOT FAIL. So there was no pleasure in succeeding, but fear and pain associated with failing. That drained all the life from it. Heck, I KNOW he was enjoying reading “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” (“yuck yuck yukkity yuck!”), but it just never translated.
I asked him if he remembered the struggle we used to have (I no longer force him to read at home, as long as he gets his work done. I was very careful to be sure that completing his work demanded reading skills. Yep, it does) and he nodded soberly.
“Are you glad we went through that?” he nodded again. He was skritching his yellow tabby, Ginger.
“Did you ever think I’d give up on you?” I saw his mouth tighten into a line. He shook his head no.
Interesting. I would have thought he’d be afraid of that. Knowing that there might be a bit of fibbing here, I carefully probed.
“Because I’m so stubborn?” I asked.
He relaxed a bit. Shook his head, smiling a little.
I got it. “Because I love you?”
“Yep” he said.
And I remembered something his therapist said: Jason had anger issues. And fear issues, and lack of clarity. But…he KNEW THAT WE LOVED HIM. Had no doubt of that.
Thank God. On that rock, I shall build his castle.
I remember the hole in my heart left by my father’s absence. I didn’t know, couldn’t know, WHY he was not there, raising me. Teaching me to catch a ball. Teaching me about life. About girls. About bullies. It took countless thousands of hours of therapy, meditation, ceremony, martial arts and yoga to heal that wound. I remember so clearly being curled into a fetal position, crying, wondering doesn’t anyone love me? Doesn’t anyone want to be my daddy? Am I such an ugly thing..?
I don’t know what might have happened had I not had that. I held on to my self-image by my fingernails. I KNEW that my Mom loved me. My sister loved me. NO, IT WASN’T ENOUGH. It was enough for me to be a healthy human being. But I just didn’t know what being a man was. And without that, I couldn’t get the reactions I wanted from either men OR women. I didn’t want to just be a “human being”. I wanted to be a MAN. To be respected by the men I respected, and desired by the women I desired. That’s the simple truth.
And didn’t know. And had to spend those thousands of hours trying to heal a wound that Dad could have prevented just by being there as a role model, someone to bounce ideas off of, to push against, to get slapped down by.
Who am I? What is true?
Everyone has to find their own way to those questions, the answers for which are embedded in every challenge you face, if only you pay attention and ask the universe for answers. We all get there, in time.
But at what cost? Jason will have his own issues. BUT HE WILL NOT HAVE MINE, by God. My battles will not be his. He will stand on my shoulders, and whether he is taller or shorter than I, he will see further.
That’s what I wanted for him. That is why I knew, after raising Nicki, that I had enough life and energy left to raise another child. Tananarive laughs at me (“you were DONE” she says). Yeah, but I had enough left. I knew that I loved being a dad. That out there in the aether, or someplace in the world, there was another child who needed a father like me. And that I was willing to empty myself out to be that father.
HE KNOWS I LOVE HIM. No matter what. We have forged that bond. No matter what happens to him later in life, he will have that. No one will ever be able to convince him he is worthless. Mom and Dad love him. Period.
When you have that confidence, you can look at your flaws…because you know that despite them, you are worthy of love.
You can walk away from a bad relationship…because you know you deserve better.
You can pick yourself up from failure and try again. And again. And again. Because you know that win or lose, you are loved.
You can walk away from a bad job. Because you know you are loved, you can love yourself, and fight for yourself, and unleash the survival drive, the toothy little mammal in your soul that will back itself into a corner and bare its fangs…or run down its pray and fight to the death to defend the bleeding meat from rivals. “If there are two jobs left in the world, I’m getting one of them.” THAT’S the attitude I want my boy to have. And then…teach him how to sell, how to market. Because THAT skill guarantees you’ll never, ever be out of work. More than any other I know of.
You can be alone, because you know that you are lovable, and love yourself, and therefore will be attracted to some of the people who find you pleasing. We attract those at our level and below. We are ATTRACTED to those at our level and above.
If those circles overlap…Bob’s your uncle.
I don’t know what happens tomorrow. Whatever it is, we’ll face it together. And we’ll win. I’ll never quit, because I love him.
And thank heaven and all the gods…he knows it.