How I show up father to son
This story was submitted by Andy Sitison to the How We Show Up collection as part of the July SEEQ sessions.
I love all my kids equally, I appreciate their unique talents and experiences. But as a male, I find myself more introspective to how I identify, how I example myself, and how I show up for my son. I remember when he was young, I worried about how to represent masculinity and how to make him the best version of himself, and me, myself. I had some bad habits generationally transferred to me, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t transfer these to my girls or to my son. I needed to set example as my way of advising him, or at least not be hypocritical. I was athletic, creative and somewhat smart, but not academic, my young son proved to be brilliant, creative, but not so athletic. I loved him deeply, but wanted to more for him. I wanted him to have the glory of sports, the joy of exercise and adventure. I had desires to make all of my kids superstars in everything they did. Soccer star, chess star, musical star. I quickly realized these were my desires, and how I identify with success. Suffocation only enlightens one to defend against suffocation, a lesson I learned from my mother. Luckily my identity includes heavy doses of introspection, humor, and is open to learning as a process of parenting. I learned to restrict my own expectations to allow them the space to explore without talent, and to fail without blame; and to find joy in those journeys. My identity needed to be the appreciation of their chosen paths and the given wisdom found. I was not perfect in this, their “Daaaaddd!” screeches reminded me often. To be honest, I might have stacked a few decks for them, over-guided on game strategy, and cheered too loudly their achievements as their greatest fan, but they had the room to find their identity. On top of these things, through out I looked at myself, and thought “cats in the craddle…” Damn it I’m not going to be irrelevant through distance, physical, cognitve, emotional or otherwise; yet I traveled a great deal while they were young. I started a tradition that I bought each kid a trinket in each new town I went to all over the world. For my son, it was playing cards. He now has two and a half filled gallon pickle jars full of playing cards from all over the world. I believe the kids all appreciate their collections. It was a special way for them to know our family was impacting the world in little ways, and that they were always in my heart and mind no matter how far I traveled, or how long I was away. My son in high school was a great student, a good musician, and the captain/mvp of the wrestling program. He touched lives and found the rewards for his diligent investments through achievement. During his high school years, he was hitting his prime, and I was was no where close to mine. I worried that I was too fat, too old, and out of shape to provide him example of a live well lived. In all honesty, I wasn’t I had sacrificed too much, to gain in my career and fund the family. The solution was we joined a strength gym together and it will always be a special time for us, pushing 200 lbs sleds across AstroTurf. My nonathletic little boy had become a legitimate monster physically, and I returned to an assemblance of my semi-monster self. After wrestling in college a couple years, he has turned back to his first love that gave him his first true love of athleticism, rock climbing. This is a love we both share, yet I am beyond my climbing days. I still go out with him from time to time helping carry the bouldering pads and spotting some of the upside down stuff he does. There is a regret that I am not able to get on the wall with him. The 20 year old versions of us would have been very compatible. Yet we are still present, and I think we have found a path to be relevant to each other. My kids are in college or beyond, they are now the great travelers, the seekers. They are exploring the world, but they too come back and bring me trinkets, photos and stories. They do so, because that feels right to them, and they want to share their love of life with me. Unlike “cat’s in the cradle”, we include each other in the identities we define for ourselves. It is a great joy to stumble through a long journey, questioning who you are, and should be, to find such a lovely achievement as this.