When I was two years old, my biological father disappeared from my life. The circumstances of that are complicated, and to be shared another day. Suffice it to say, my dependence on him ceased around the same time as my dependence on diapers.
My mother remarried, and that man became for all intents and purposes my father. He raised me to the best of his abilities, and I’m grateful for that. I count myself lucky to have a dad in spite of not having a father. Many are not so lucky.
Even so, there is a sense of loss that comes from having a dramatic life event like that happen to you – even if you were at such a young age at the time that you don’t remember any of it. It feels like the timeline of your family has been disrupted; like life was moseying along and was shaken by an (un)natural disaster. Everyone came out of their hiding places to find the world different, and yet the same. Then they tried their best to move forward in the midst of their debris fields.
I was thinking about this last Sunday while listening to my pastor talk about the importance of investing in children. He said that investing in a child pays dividends throughout that child’s entire life, whereas adults only have so many years left. And as a result, one child has the potential to make a huge impact – to change the direction of an entire family. Investing in children, he said, is a small but impactful way to change the world.
I think unconsciously this is what I’ve been doing with Miles. I feel like it’s my generational duty to work my ass off so that my son is secure and happy. It’s a palpable responsibility that I feel every day; it’s the burning desire in the pit of my belly that drives everything I do.
And I’ve come to realize that this may be partially (or mostly even) driven by the disruption in our family tree. It’s like I’ve taken all of the pain of that loss, and am using the energy behind it to turn the ship in a new direction. If I set Miles up for success, if I’m there for him in every way my own father wasn’t for me, he can start a new chapter of our family.
He can change the world.
Of course, this means that beyond providing financially, beyond putting “a roof over our heads” and all of the other quasi-masculine cliches, I have to be there. That’s my daily challenge – being there for him physically, emotionally, mentally. Prioritizing him even when it takes every last ounce of energy left.
How do you make this work in your family? Are you hoping for any course correction for your kids?