Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

Yesterday's Father's Day celebration had the slightest tinge of sadness as I realized that I would never again be calling my own dad to wish him happiness on his day.  But overall, the day was a really good one.  We had given my husband his gifts in advance -- if for no other reason than the big one was tickets to the Mets game yesterday.  Very little was surprising to him -- he bought the tickets and the book we gave him himself and although the other big ticket item - cuff links - was something I chose, they were among items he had requested.  He also mapped out the events of the weekend, so there wasn't much that I felt we really did for him.

But it was a pleasant weekend.  The family played golf together on Saturday, saw the Mets (lose) on Sunday, and ate at my husband's favorite spots.  All three boys had baseballs autographed -- something we've attempted before but were not successful at in the past, so that was definitely a highlight.  We had good seats, which came with access to a VIP section of food and restaurants -- a real pleasure since we mostly see games from the upper tiers, surrounded by the stench and stickiness of stale beer.  And then later at home, my husband relaxed and watched the Masters golf tournament, which was fun for him.

Marring the warm, fuzzy feelings of the weekend was a confrontation between our older son and my husband about the living room tv.  Both our sons are video-game obsessed and have worked out a deal between themselves for shared use of the videogames, tv and computer.  When I intercede to watch something I'm interested in, I generally fit my viewing into their schedule -- warning them in advance of my desire for some screen time.  Not so my husband.  He has a bit of the old "head of household" feeling, that everyone else should somehow defer to his desires.  And when he asserts this authority, the kids are understandably upset.  They react with anger, in turn my husband does the same, and predictably, it never turns out well.

Last night, my husband held his temper against our son and retreated to our bedroom to watch Law & Order.  I had my son apologize, but it took long enough that my husband had stewed in his resentment for a while and worked himself into quite a lather.  He takes all of these incidents so personally, seemingly believing that the kids' selfishness and lack of gratitude is a reflection of how they feel about him, rather than acknowledging that 10 year olds and 13 year olds are just naturally selfish and self-centered.  Parenting is hard -- parents get no thanks at the time of the work and the sacrifices -- we just have to hope that if we do it all well enough now, the recognition and thanks will come later.

And speaking of selfishness, it is hard not to continually blame my husband's difficulty in the role of father on the inadequacies of his own father.  My father-in-law epitomized selfishness -- he never hid the fact that DH was an "accident" of menopause, and essentially insisted that his fathering was over -- he had already done the coaching of Little League and such for DH's older brothers and refused to do it again.  When forced to choose between DH and a scheming 2nd wife, he chose the women (in a marriage that lasted less than 9 months).  Until the day he died, he made ridiculous and foreseeable financial mistakes -- and DH rescued him from each and every one.  DH never got the recognition he deserved in that relationship either -- all the more difficult because an adult should know better.  It is hard even today for me not to be astonished that DH persisted in wanting a warm relationship with this man who didn't deserve any relationship at all.

But I digress...

There is no doubt in my mind that modern parenting is hard.  The balance between being too authoritative and too much of a friend is a tough one to find.  DH and I are struggling to find our way.  With luck, we'll look back on future Father's Days and believe that it was all well worth the effort.

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