I’ve been thinking a lot about being a parent lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with my Daughter turning 22, and my Son is about a month away from turning 12.
It takes a long time before you can see if you’ve done a good job or not. I think that’s what concerns me the most.
I remember, years ago, I had an ex (she was Puerto Rican) that every time she was mad at me, she would start saying how she had the best Mom in the world, and how my family hated me. Usually, I was pretty numb to this, and didn’t say much, but one day I had had enough, and I said “How do you figure you have the best Mom in the world? Both your parents were addicted to heroin; all three of you kids dropped out of school, were on drugs, and did jail time before you were 18. How in the hell do you call that good parenting?” She gave me a nasty look, and said, “At least she loved us.” But I didn’t stop, I said: “Sure, she did that’s why she threw all of you out of the house before you hit 18, so she could have more alone time with her heroin and her many boyfriends.” That was pretty much the end between my ex, and me.
Back in 1998, I was living in Canoga Park, and I took a stroll down to the corner to get my hair cut. I got to talking to the Hispanic barber about kids (at this point I only had my four-year-old daughter), and he says that he has a Son, and a Daughter and that Daughters are the best. I agree, what else am I going to say? Then he explains why, he says, “You have a Son, he grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets shot, and dies, but with a Daughter, she grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets knocked up, moves back home, gets off of drugs, and raises her kid.” I just sat there stunned, this is why Daughters are better because their ability to get knocked up by gangbangers? I don’t think I let my four-year-old daughter out of my sight for the rest of the weekend.
About four years prior to this I was talking (and drinking) with a friend of mine named Jeff, Jeff is African American, and has many anti-Black views. Jeff and I were throwing back a couple of bottles of St. Ides (hey, it was in 1994, and Tupac said it was a good beer), and my Daughter was a few months away from being born, and in his drunken state Jeff was telling me that I had to step up, and be a good Dad, and be pleased with every decision she makes, then he said raise her the opposite way that Black people raise their kids. I asked, “How is that?” He said, “Black people are like a bucket of crabs?” I said, “What?” He replied, “Yeah, watch crabs, sometimes, if one starts to get away, they all pull him back down. That’s Black people, man. As soon as one of us starts to do well, or leave the neighborhood, everybody pulls us back down. They suck man.”
OK, it’s OK to do heroin, and throw my kids out as long as I love them, no gangbanger activity for my kids, and keep them away from crabs, check.
There used to be an entertainment magazine called Icon (not the gay magazine), and for a short time in 1998, until early 1999, it was one of my favorite magazines. It covered music, comics, movies — you name it. One issue they had a small interview with Black porn (male) star Sean Michaels. Now, not normally a subject I would be interested in, but I read everything. If I’m in a doctor’s office, and all they have is Good Housekeeping, well, I’ll read the whole thing cover to cover. Then offer great decorating tips afterward. Anyway, Sean Michaels starts talking about his twelve-year-old Son that he doesn’t see. Then he says, “I’m not the father I want to be because I’m not the man I want to be.”
What? This damn quote has been stuck in my head for about twelve years. I never thought that was a reasonable excuse. I can’t be a good Dad because I’m not rich enough, or I haven’t accomplished enough. WTF? There isn’t a parent in the world that makes enough or has accomplished enough.
Another interview I read about five years back was with Mike Ness. Mike explains how he didn’t meet his Son until the boy was five years old. Now, in Mike’s case, he was in all kinds of legal trouble, and he was pretty heavily addicted to drugs. Now me personally, I can’t imagine not being around my kids when they were born, or all those early years. Mike was smart to stay away until he cleaned up, and got on the straight and narrow. Nothing worse than subjecting your kids to your downfall.
So, how do you know if you did a good job or not? Hopefully, every once in a while, they will just plop down in your lap for no reason at all, and smile at you. And hopefully, this won’t be followed by “You know what I’d really like to get?”