Being a Dad…the best role I've ever had.

Posts tagged ‘growing up’

Parenting is tough

I have been a parent for twenty years. In all of those years, I have experienced a few times when it really, truly sucked.  The first time, Chase was in the hospital because he was not breathing well.  All kinds of scary words were bandied about by the doctors. Ultimately, is was an asthma attack, and he was fine. It was, up to that point, the most scared I ever felt. 

The second time, I had to tell Chase he was going to lose his mother.  That was an awful day and one I do not wish on any one. Watching your mate of nearly twenty years die is bad enough, telling your twelve year old is even worse.

While the third time isn’t quite the same, it was equally painful. That was the day Chase moved out and on his own.  While Preston and Xander still live us, and will for a few more years, having my first born move out was painful.  I never really thought it would be quite that bad, but, it was.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of him and am happy he can survive on his own. He is doing quite well. 

Even though he is a fine, 20 year old young man, Chase is still my little boy, and always will be.  He has been a rock for myself, indeed, our whole family.  We did quite a bit together, went to a NASCAR race (he hates them, that’s his biggest flaw), been on numerous trips together and, best of all, he shares my love of thrill rides and amusement parks. 

That love of amusement parks, the thrill rides and games have served as a bonding mechanism.  We can have fun doing other things, but nothing has compared to the trips we have taken to amusement parks.

The last two years we have made the trip from Richmond to Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina just to ride rollercoasters.  But, honestly, it wasn’t so much the destinations, for me, but the journey getting there.  We talked, shared things we had not shared in the past and just enjoyed the drives. 

Recently, I went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with my family.  We all went…my wife, in-laws, Xander and Preston.  Chase, however, was unable to go.  This was the first time I went to a new to us park without him.  While I had aa great time with my family, there was something missing.  Seeing the joy and sense of wonder in Preston and Xander was awesome and reminded me of the same thing I saw in Chase–and still do–when he was a child.  The trip, though, just wasn’t the same.  And, that is something I need to get used to…going places without him.  He has his own life and will be doing things without us.  He still wants to do things with me, and that is just awesome. I will cherish those time as much as I do all of the years worth up to now. And, I have two more children to do so with, and that, too, is awesome.

I guess I should be happy with all of the memories, but, I am a selfish son of a bitch and don’t want to let go.  But, as with everything, I guess I have to…so, I guess that is the fourth time.

Man, this growing up thing is hard.

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The Extended Family

Last night, Preston was having a bit of a difficult time. He had a concussion in November and is still suffering from the ill effects of the injury. He was a little upset that the weekend was over and he wanted to spend more time with his father. I may be step Dad, and treat him like my own, but I’m not DAD. I explained to him that I knew exactly how he felt. He gave me a funny look as if to say ‘yeah, how would you?’ I told him how lucky he was, he had two Mom’s and two Dad’s who love him very much. When I was growing up, I didn’t know my ‘birth’ mother or my Dad. I had spent some time with them, but didn’t really know either. The lady I called MOM, adopted me when I was his age. I told him that I didn’t really get spend any time with my Dad until eight or nine but got to really know him when I was a teen. I told him it was OK to feel the way he did and never be afraid to talk to me about it. He gave me the biggest hug, like a burden had been lifted. He asked me a few more questions about my childhood, which I answered. I reassured him that his Dad was welcome to drop by anytime he could to spend time with Preston. It also made me think about ‘FAMILY’.
They say blood is thicker than water, which may be true, but FAMILY trumps it all. And, in my book, there doesn’t have to be any blood relation to make a FAMILY. Yesterday was my SISTER’s birthday. We are not related by blood and, it seems, we don’t even share the same mother…but, that is OK. I grew up knowing who my family was, just as I want Preston to know his. Mike has been part of my family for six years now and it does not matter, to me, how that came to be. He, too, is part of my family.
Ann, the sister who had the birthday yesterday, and her late husband, treated me like a king when I was little. I remained very close to them until they moved to New York. I always had a problem with that, but, I really do not know why. They moved to be closer to their son and grandchildren. As that happened after the deaths of my Mom, my Dad and my first wife, it kind of felt like I was being left alone. That scared me. I don’t know why, as I still had a big family right here at home. My son, my then girlfriend (whom I married a short time later) and the rest of my family-which, just seemed invisible.  Ann and I grew apart, but not very much. The death of her husband had a big impact on me, he was, after all, like a Dad to me for most of my life. And, even though I don’t talk to her as much, I still love her and nothing will ever change that. I have three other sisters too…Mary, which Mom also adopted; Katy, who is my blood sister (meaning we are actually, biologically, related-have the same parents) and Rose. I could write a book about this.
Each one of those three ladies are awesome in their own ways and, as a result, I feel like I am a better man because of things I learned from them.
Mary was always unapologetic and adventurous. She showed me that following the rules was not always the best thing to do…I know how that sounds, but, she was right.  She’s had some rough times, but got through them and is now a fine lady, content with the way things turned out. Even now, when things don’t always go the way they should, she maintains that same attitude. It is a quality I wish I had.
Katy is my more liberal minded sister.  Polar opposite of me, more like the way my Dad thought.  She is very much like him, her sense of humor, the way she looks at things and the way she just accepts people. Well, OK, my Dad was not quite as accepting of a lot of people.  I didn’t grow up with her, we saw very little of each other as the ‘social workers’ in Chesterfield did their best to keep us apart.  We keep in touch now and I’m very glad we do.
Rose was a foster child Mom had for several years.  When she was released from the foster care system, she chose to stay with us. Rose has a physical disability–cerebral palsy–that left her not quite as mobile as most are.  She complemented the rest of my expanding family, only moving out on her own when she was in her late twenties.  Over the years, we’ve drifted apart and I do regret that.  It is one thing I need to work on. It isn’t because of an argument or anything like that. For the longest time, I convinced myself it was the distance-she lives in another state with what is left of her family. Distance, though, is a cop out. I just need to do it.
Suffice it to say, that there is actually very little ‘blood’ in my family and that’s OK.
That brings me back to Preston.  The difficulties of just trying to cope with the big world and Autism is hard enough.  Having your life change so much and in such a short time is overwhelming.  When he started to melt down last night, I though ‘oh my lord, what did I say this time’, but, this time, I think he was just looking for some comfort, even though it took a bit of effort to get him to open up.  And, he isn’t one to just blurt out what his problem or problem really is.  You have to piece it together.  That’s tough to do.
Little dude is having a difficult time dealing with his now bigger family. The two small one’s, Sam and Xander, bug him. He has to share a room with Sam when he goes to his Dad’s house and, soon, will be sharing a room here, with Xander. Sam is step brother (and cute as a button) and Xander is half-brother. Both are just annoyances to him. I suspect, in a few years, that will change. He still sees Xander as a bother, but warms up to him when he thinks it is necessary and plays with him, from time to time, without being prompted to do so. He still thinks that both are out to kill him, even though they are just playing.  In Preston’s view, there’s little difference between play and non-play action. It is something he is trying to learn.  He’ll figure it out. He’s one smart kid.
He also thinks he doesn’t get much time with Dad.  He’s right, he doesn’t.  That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way things are…it’s not always fair. However, having said that, it isn’t quite the lack of time that Preston perceives it to be.  Dad picks him up Friday afternoon and brings him back, early evening, on Sunday’s.  Once in a while, that doesn’t happen for various reasons…vacation, work, illness, etc.  It isn’t because Dad doesn’t want him or we don’t want Dad to get him. Those are infrequent.  Not to Preston, though. One of the Autism traits he exhibits is perception distortion. That is, two days to him is more like two hours.  This past weekend, Dad picked him up for physical therapy and then took him home. He came back a bit early for a birthday party that he had been invited. Now, we are only talking a couple of hours difference from the norm, but, for Preston, it was like a day. Add in the time that Dad spends with Dad’s new family and Preston feels like he doesn’t get enough Dad time.  And, try as I may, I’m not Dad. Nor am I going to pretend to be. I will treat him like mine, but never try to replace Dad.  And, that’s the way it needs to be.  I think Preston has accepted me as ‘dad 2’ and, in this case, I’m happy to be number 2.
We are all working with Preston to not look at his brothers as anything but brothers.  Preston has fully accepted Chase as big brother and Chase loves him the same way. They get along great. He also seems to have accepted his new sister–also older than him. It is just the young ones he has a problem with…they are, after all, trying to ‘kill’ him, you know, when they are not playing with him. He has yet to realize the support system he has or how big his family has become.
In time, though, I hope he will come to appreciate his expanded family as I have mine.

Watching him become an adult

DSC_5358June.  The start of the summer season, vacations starting up, school ending and graduations.  Among the events that have taken place, for me, in June…my oldest son graduating from high school and turning 18.

I thought the graduation was going to be tough for me. I was very proud of him.  Watching him walk across the stage, getting his diploma and remembering a time when we sure if it would ever happen.  When he was a child, Chase had an immune system deficiency and took several meds and received monthly, then weekly infusions. We never knew what the long term effects of the medication he took and the blood infusions he received would do. There was even concern on how it would all affect his cognitive ability.  Well, I am happy to report that it all kept him alive as well as not doing anything to hamper is learning and mental growth.

He has turned out to be a fine young man.

Fine young man. 

Wow.

It seems to me that just a few short years ago he was five and just starting school. But, I woke up one day and he’s 15 and in high school.  How in hell did that happen?

Now, he’s 18.  Out of school, driving and has a job.  Soon, he’ll have two jobs as he will be a ‘scare actor’  at a local theme park for the Halloween season.  My otherwise quiet son will be scaring the pants off of grown people and kids alike.

He’s good at it too as we saw him in action last season.

Over the years, I’ve watched him develop and grow. Often, telling him he needed to stop that nonsense and be my little boy forever.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  Well, the stop growing part, anyway. 

I think back at his many goals…like being tall enough to reach the light switch on his own.  Being able to read just enough so he could play Rollercoaster Tycoon while daddy was at work (I used to put him on my knee and play the game with him. We built many, many amusement parks together.) Getting tall enough to ride the Tomb Raider.  Being able to ride to ride the Volcano. Wishing he was in high school. Wishing he was out of school, etc.

And watching the awe and amazement coming from him when he discovered something new as well as having those goals met.  Watching his excitement when he was able to reach the light switch, play the games, ride the rollercoasters and tomb raider.  The pride, walking across the stage, in getting his diploma.  Even today, he still gets excited. Not as much, perhaps, as he used to, but he does. (Seeing the joy on his face when we went back to Disney World was just as cool as it was the first time, some 12 years ago.)

Time doesn’t stop and Chase will, eventually, move on and, hopefully, find out how awesome it is to be Dad. And, it has been awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And, I get to do it again.

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