I have been many things in my life, but without a doubt being a father was the hardest and yet the most rewarding. My daughter suffered my teaching as I had grown up in a home of men. I guess all children need discipline, but when Tara was not with me, anything her mother told me didn’t matter a whit. I missed my daughter terribly. She was my constant companion and my buddy. Everywhere I went, she went with me. Probably not a good thing for a 4-year-old girl, but I simply didn’t think of going anywhere without her sitting on the jump seat of my pickup.
Both she and I made mistakes, but it seems everything has turned out OK. Yet for the important parts I can’t take credit, as she learned to be a lady when I married the woman that still holds my heart in her hand. Tara will say that and she does, often.
Sixteen years later my first son, Austin, was born and I thought life was wonderful. A boy child! I was committed to his childhood being different than mine was as he grew. Yet I can’t take all or really any of the credit, as Lorraine is such a wonderful mother and filled the holes in my teaching of his life.
Three years later I was blessed with another boy. God had granted me with a little more maturity when Reed was born. I was 49 years old when I carried Austin from the birthing room to the nursery at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Being the first born son carries certain expectations and I was intent upon making sure he understood his responsibilities. When he abused his duties, he was treated different than my other children. I wasn’t a paragon of fatherly understanding. I thought if I wanted him to be or act a certain way that he automatically would know this.
I was a terrible student in school and although I never told him, I discovered that children hear everything that is said in a home. I had strived and fought to be good at something and I became a pretty good soldier, but that was all. I knew that I became a good soldier because discipline was enforced in those circumstances. I never wanted him to suffer to learn about discipline like I did, but I only knew the army way.
This is not a teaching point for children. Austin simply wanted to be like me. I don’t say that as a compliment to my actions. No one wants their young children to be treated as a soldier, but that was all I could tell him about my young life and about discipline. I expected him to embrace discipline as I had, but he was a different person. I didn’t want him to make mistakes as I did. I wanted and expected him to know what he was supposed to do.
He rebelled and became more like me. I had been stubborn, loud, smart mouthed and completely dismissive of school. If he could make a teacher mad or laugh, he had done his work. I’m almost sure those were his thoughts. I was confused. Why was he so insistent that no matter what I asked, he did the opposite?
Lorraine would just look at me as if that was a dumb question, not worthy of even being answered. He grew to manhood as a tall, dark and handsome young man who truly had the world as his oyster. We sent him to the best schools we could find and sent him money when we could. He never suffered for attention from his parents.
When he and Reed were barely old enough to understand, I kept telling them they had to get a college degree. He was more interested in the girls and party than school, and his grades reflected that. He came home from his junior year at Chico state, where he had attempted to convince everyone that he was the reason that Chico had a reputation of being the party school of the nation. He had no job or money and he had destroyed the car we had bought for him.
I was attending CSUMB to get my degree, so we told him to come on home and we’ll just become school mates. (Believe me, it was a lot more traumatic than it sounds.) He did, with some convincing, finish his degree and graduated. He immediately got a great job for a large local produce company and worked hard. He kept getting promoted and Lorraine and I thought this is it! He has discovered his passion. Then one day he walked in and told us he had quit. I almost said a bad word.
“Do you have another job?” “No dad, but I don’t want to work in a refrigerator any more. I’ll get something.” At this time he had bought a brand new truck, was in debt and back living with us. I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t think I could ever get disappointed about one of my children, but I was concerned. No grown person really wants to live with their parents because they have to.
Before I close, I will tell you he got another job. He wisely got a job where his wit and demeanor help him. He became a salesman. In one year, he became the leader of sales for a major manufacturer of very expensive equipment that is used in many industries. The other day he came to me and said, “Dad, life is truly about discipline. One year ago I was having terrible thoughts and today I have a company truck, my own apartment and money in the bank.”
I am proud of all my children. They are everything to me and My Bride, you probably know that, but Austin has gone above and beyond my expectations. Lorraine called me in from my office the other day and said I had to listen to a song, a song currently being played on the radio by Harry Chapin. It’s called “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and he sings, “I want to be like you, dad.” She said, “That is your son.”