27 AprRolled over by Dadacity
There is a video on YouTube where a soon-to-be father asks a father of three, “So, what’s it like to be a dad?” The dad thinks (we get to see what he’s thinking) and replies, “How much time have you got?” What we saw the dad think was of all the time (good and bad) that he has spent with his children. The final effect was to make me wish I was a dad. Then I remembered that I was. The implication in the dad’s response to the soon-to-be dad is time—it takes a lot of time to be a good dad. Men are becoming fathers every minute of every day. The number of fathers who take the next step and become good dads is much less. This is sad—sad for the children and even sadder for the fathers. The experience of “dadness” is soul-changing. Fathers who don’t experience the “change” are caterpillars who never become butterflies.
Somewhere in the course of experiencing my eight children “dadness” happened to me. What is this “dadness” of which I speak? I don’t know. It has something to do with unspeakable joy. I use the word “unspeakable” on purpose. Words can’t touch it. To try is just to embarrass yourself. All I can say is that a dad will know it when it happens. And it happens while you are spending time with your children.
I spend a lot of time with my children. This isn’t a plan. This isn’t me trying to be a good dad. I think this is more an issue of a man who never quite grew up. I enjoy the company of my children. No, really. I really, really enjoy it. I guess this is lucky for me, because with eight children there are a lot to spend time with.
The biggest obstacle in a dad’s life to spending time with his children is his job. A dad’s job can take him away from home early and bring him home late. It often brings him home tired as well. This makes the happiness of his children to see him sometimes a burden. I’ve gotten around this problem by bringing my kids to work with me. I’ve been lucky. I know this isn’t something that most dads are allowed to do.
When my first son, who is now married with one child, started to beat me at chess (he was eight) I had his mother put him on a bus and send him to my workplace at noon. There he would play one of my workmates who could still actually beat him at chess. Then my son would stay the rest of the day with me in my office. He was quiet and well-behaved. Perhaps that is why my bosses allowed it (if they even knew about it). In the following years at that company I would bring one of my other two sons to the office also every-so-often. They would take naps under my desk or do their school work in the lunch room. During lunch hour we would go for walks by the river or go to the library.
When I opened my own computer repair shop my thirteen-year-old daughter became my partner. She would do her schoolwork in the shop and then help me fix computers or run the place when I was out on a house call. She travelled all over the state with me to install servers and new network cables in a chain of tire stores. What a pleasure it was working alongside her. Her company ended when I put her in public school. I still see a lot of her. She will come by the shop after school and often bring friends. They will sit in the back room and eat snacks and just hang out until it’s time for their next planned activity.
My thirteen-year-old son spends his days with me at the shop now. He does his online schooling in the mornings and runs the shop while I am doing my afternoon school bus run. We eat a lot of lunches together in the park during the summer. He rides off on his bike to the middle school for band and returns just in time to see me ride off on my bike to go to my bus. At the end of the day we go to taekwondo together. The shop really gets noisy when my wife drops off the other three kids at my shop when she has an appointment. Sometimes I will arrive at the shop to find one of my older boys sleeping in the back room on his way through to another destination.
On weekends I take a few of the kids and often the wife to one of my married son’s homes in a nearby city. There we play video games together. Actually I watch the games since they are more like movies nowadays. This son is a video game aficionado. I was spending time with him watching him play games long before he left home. We have been working our way through “Mass Effect 3” for a few months now one mission at a time. It has made for great family time.
I have spent days of time out in the back field throwing boomerangs, Frisbee, and flying kites with the kids. The quality of life is high while catching boomerangs in the dusk with your son as the sun sets.
Something that is always the highlight of my day is reading time. I have read so many good books in my life. Having so many kids means I get to read these books again and again as the kids come of age. We read many books together as a family. During the Abhorsen Trilogy or the Harry Potter series my kids (and their mother) would beg for one more chapter even though it was late. We haven’t read a book as an entire family in some time. But I still read to them individually. Currently I am reading “My Antonia” to my seventeen-year-old. It will be the last book I will ever read with her. I am reading “A View From Saturday” to my eleven-year-old daughter. I am reading “Homecoming” to my thirteen and nine-year-old sons.
The list of activities I find myself attending with my kids goes on and on. Remember that thirteen-year-old daughter who ran the shop with me? I danced with her at her senior prom this year. This means she will be leaving home soon. I will only have four children left, then. After eight children in the house four isn’t very many. Every so often I will feel the weight of raising so many children and wonder if I will make it through the last one. But just as quickly a sadness fills me at the thought of the home being empty of children. There are those who tell me of the wonders of grandchildren, but I am not convinced yet.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t have so many children or if I didn’t spend so much time with them. Would I have more of a career to brag about? Would I have written all those books already? Would I be traveling around the world with my wife? Maybe. All I really know is that “dadacity” rolled over me like a steamroller. Some men are able to be a dad and much more. Not me. To date I haven’t been able to do much more than be Dad. I still have some dreams I am reaching for beyond being Dad. I might reach them yet. Even if I don’t I won’t have failed at life—you can’t fail if you have experienced dadacity.