13 years ago today, I became a father:
I’ll never forget the day Makinley was born. I was there for the whole delivery – I was even down on the business end of things: I’ll never forget watching Makinley emerge, and seeing her turn her head up and look up at me even before she had finished being born. I always thought I wanted my first child to be a son. I wanted a boy to carry on my name, to have father – son talks with, to send on a mission. But our first baby was a girl, and on that day, I forgot all about the idea of having a son: I was in love with that little girl.
I was scared to be a dad. I was 22 years old. I felt horribly unprepared. Mireesa and I were struggling severely in our relationship. We fought constantly, and there seemed to be little hope for improvement. I had recently quit the band in an effort to keep things calm at home, and was in a deep dark hole without music in my life. I was working full time and struggling to put myself through school. I felt like Makinley was coming in to a home that was like a lumbering airliner with 3 failed engines, barely staying aloft with one semi-functioning engine, on the verge of crashing out of the sky into a horrific smoldering pile of human carnage and failed hopes.
That’s pretty much what happened.
I’m desperately trying not to go into a downward spiral of pain and disappointment as I think about what I’ve been like as a father. I had such high hopes for myself and her. This isn’t meant to be another essay in my own self loathing, though. This is about Makinley, the kid that has triumphed despite her parents.
Makinley is brilliant. I always felt that she was an old soul. Makinley always seemed to have a sense of right and wrong, particularly when it came to compassion toward others. There were many occasions in which she would befriend the new kid in school that moved in, or the awkward kin in class that nobody else really liked. She is in the top of her class with a 4.0, which is pretty cool. I was such a poor student. She is a voracious reader, evidence that there are certain chunks of DNA that we do not have in common. This kid will plow through an 800 page book in a couple of days, and she does it constantly. She loves The Hunger Games. I like to think that she’s fascinated by the political undertones. The walls in her room host a several posters, a few of which are from The Hunger Games. Every time I see the “Down with the capitol” poster on her wall, my libertarian / anarchist heart swells a bit, hoping that some day, my little girl will be one of the strong voices that will rise up against the oppression that our own capitol is slowly but surely imposing upon it’s own citizens. I can’t force any ideology on my kids, but I do hope and pray that they have warrior hearts.
Anyway, Makinley, I hope that you do not read this. Not until you are 37, anyway. This blog is full of filthy, disgusting, disturbing things that your father has done and thought about. But for a second I’ll talk to you as if you are reading it, just as a literary device. But seriously. If you happen to have found this blog post, just close your browser right now and forget that you ever found my blog.
Anyway, back to this literary device: I cannot believe where the time has gone. In the words of an 19th century work of scripture that I don’t really believe in anymore, (but still has some interesting ideas):
“the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream” (Jacob 7:26)
On one hand, it seems a like a whole separate lifetime ago that you were born. On the other hand, that time has gone by so devastatingly quickly. I am infinitely proud of you, Kin. You make me look like an awesome parent. I have tried to be everything I need to be as a father, and when I let myself think about it for more than 3 seconds, I start to cry because I feel that I’ve been such a miserable failure as a dad. I tried so hard to keep our family together, but it just didn’t happen. That’s a long story for another day. The day your mother served me divorce papers, I realized that my role as a traditional father was over forever. There are a lot of things about your childhood that I’d miss out on. The loss of the ability to see you and Makelle every day is the biggest heart break of my life. I am still not over it. I don’t think I ever will be, and I’m not sure if I should ever get over it. There are countless times I’d be on my mail route near a school, and I’d see two dark haired little girls walking along that resembled you and Kelley. I’d just break down into tears right there in my mail truck. 7 years later, it still sucks. There are some days it’s hard to even function.
You haven’t tattooed “I hate you dad” on your chest yet, so, thanks for being understanding. While we were at dinner together last week, you confided something in me that you asked me not to tell mom. So, I won’t tell the internet, either. But in that moment, I realized that my little girl is gone, and I now have a young woman on my hands. That is a daunting task, Kin. I am really not sure how to be a good dad to a beautiful, brilliant young woman like you. This is crazy.
As for now… I feel like I’ve totally F*$%ed up as a father, not being able to keep the family together. So, I’m trying for the second best thing. I’m trying to correct the mistakes in my heart that got us into this mess in the first place, and live as a better person moving forward. Hopefully it’s true that late is better than never. I figure that the best thing I can do as a human being, and as your dad, is to follow the advice of Marrianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If there is one legacy I want to leave on this earth, THIS IS IT. If there is one hope that I have for you, it would be that you live your life according to this ethos. If you follow this principle, I am convinced that you will live a brilliant life that will leave the earth better than it was when you found it. That is my hope for you.
It would be preposterous for me to expect something of you that I have not done myself. I do some crazy things, I’m not around as much as you or I would like, I often work too much, and I know that I embarrass you sometimes. Know this: I’m trying my best to live in such a way that I’m liberated from my own fears, and thus liberate others. I believe this is the most important work you or I can do for our fellow humans. To this end, I do hope you follow my example.
I love you Makinley. You have been an absolute joy to help raise. I could not be more proud. Happy Birthday, Kinley-kinley-bo-binley.
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Okay. Literary device is over. Maybe I’ll just stick this in her birthday card.
I don’t have half of the life experiences that you do and I still have many of the same “I have failed as a parent” thoughts. I think the most important thing I can do for my kids is to be brutally honest when they ask the hard questions. (This has already happened a few times, my older kids now know that I will honestly answer anything they ask and possibly embarrass the shit out of them.) The fact that you are aware of your situation and you love your kids makes you a better Dad than a lot of people than I know.