Dad Bod

Inspiration, move me brightly…

It’s funny, trying to be a writer sometimes. I have always said that I never wanted to force anything. That I didn’t want to write just to hear myself talk. That I never wanted to just put any old thing out into the world of the internet just because I could. I always do my best to put something real, authentic, and meaningful out on when I write. Because I believe that some where some one is reading it and it might just make a difference to them. So I always wait for a moment of inspiration to strike me and nudge me into writing about it. And I never know when that is going to happen, hence the Grateful Dead song lyric quote above, “Inspiration, move me brightly.” Because it just happened. I had to stop and write about this because it matters to me. And I am sure, to many Men and women out there.

I love being a dad. I love being a step dad. I love being a husband. I love having two dogs. when I first met my wife, Tiffany, and we were just in the preliminary stages of our dating and getting to know each other- she had mentioned that she had three children. Three children who were not so little anymore. I, having my own son, Lucas knew that if this were to really move into the more serious stages of a relationship and ultimately, marriage knew that there could some day be four children, that we could some day become a mixed family. We could become the Brady Bunch. And that scared me. For those of you who have been following me since the beginning, or who know me in real life- know the circumstances surrounding my son’s coming to this earth. I wasn’t prepared to be a dad then, how in the world can I expect to someday be prepared to be a step dad? Man, This is some heavy shit. But its nothing new, right? I mean, this kind of situation unfolds every day all over the world…

I remember when we all really spent the day together for the first time. We went to the Potowatami Zoo in South Bend, we got a hotel and we had pizza. It was a good time. Man, they were still so little compared to today. I can do this. This is awesome! We hung out more and more. All of us often, almost every weekend. And as our relationships bloomed and we all grew to know each other it was very apparent to me that this is getting serious, and that this is for real. And it was and sometimes still is very scary for me.

These are children. These are Her children, and my son. These are little lives here. With dreams, and with innocent hearts and wild imaginations. And they can talk, and think, and watch and learn. What in the world is going on here? What if I fail? What if I hurt them in some way? I can never replace the man that helped create them, is that even what I am supposed to do- or trying to do? What do I say when ______ ? How do I react if____? This is all so much. I was terrified. They don’t really know me. I am just this guy that Mom introduced them to. How do they know that they can trust me? How do they know that I am or am not going to stick around? The pressure, although I was never pressured by anyone but myself- was immense. I was stepping into a world that I have never experienced before. Literally I was just a couple years back eating days old food out of dumpsters and strung out on crack and heroin. And now that I just wrote that, I am wondering who was crazier at the time, her or me(sorry babe). But its true. What in the realm of fuck was going on here. All of this was so much and so fast. But I knew that I trusted God and he would never put something on me that I couldn’t handle. Apparently He believes in me more than I believe in myself sometimes. Sheesh. Welp, here we go…

And as the days turned to months, and we spent more and more time together and ultimately moved into to our first home, our “starter house” as we call it. Which by the way is a great idea for those out there in recovery, and the normies alike- get a starter house that you rent, and stay there until you find out if you two are gonna kill each other or not. Lol. Don’t Kill each other. That would be bad. But we did. We moved in together. Tiffany, Her three, and me, with luke on the weekends and one over night a week. What chaos. Oh the feels. The sleepless nights. The turbulent mornings. The birthday pressure. The holidays. The school shopping. Groceries. Homework times 4 now. And then to top things off, we got a damn dog. A crazy ass pit bull that we named Reba. I love my dog. Shes a good dog and her feet smell like Fritos. But it was and still is at times, very scary and high pressure. Am I doing this right? What are my boundaries? When do I “move in”? When do I hold back? How can I possibly walk that fine line between “you’re not my dad”, “Step dad”, Friend, Parent, Leader, “I need you”, etc… It is by far the most turbulent position I have ever been in in my life. Top that off with having my own biological son. Walking that fine line- Don’t favor luke, don’t favor these three. Don’t be over critical here, while being overly gracious here. It is quite the magical balancing act and I have no idea how we have all survived up to this point. And it doesn’t matter if the children have a relationship with their “real dad/mom” or not. If you’re a step parent you understand, its a very trying relationship to have. Do I need to feel like I am competing? Am I competing? Am I filling someone else’s shoes? Am I taking their place? Do I need to feel this way? Do THEY feel this way? What are my limits here? What is my role, exactly? Who do they need me to be? Who am I to them? Being in a mixed household is difficult a lot of the times. There are days when I feel like we bounce from child to child, meeting their needs and listening to them, talking to them, helping them, driving them around and I feel like my mind set, perception, and outlook literally shifts as I move from person to person. How do we attend to each one fairly, respectfully, lovingly, and equally address each moment, stay objective and not favor any one over the other? Am I doing this right? Who am I to them? How do I discipline them without being an asshole? How do I praise without being a kiss ass like I’m trying to win them over? I just don’t know.

But the days pass, birthdays come and go. Holidays, vacations, new bikes, fortnite, hikes, redamaks trips in new buffalo. Cutting down of christmas trees. Stress. Sleepless nights and rough ass mornings. Spilled cereal. Young Connor’s first “Heart break”. Jamie’s BFFs, Logans dirt bike stories. Which is another thing, how do I react or stay interested in a conversation with Logan on those car rides when all he does is talk about how awesome his real dad is? Am I bad person for being a little discouraged and honestly disinterested when he just goes on and on about this? I don’t mean to. I love him with my whole heart, but what about how awesome herb is? Wait, does he not tell me because I am failing? Am I failing? Oh my God, did I blow this whole thing? Were 4 years in, and married now. What did I do wrong? Fuck. Luke’s Baseball, and football, and always bouncing around, and 14 bazillion questions about everything under the sun. which may in the moment be a bit annoying, or trivial, but it’s also pretty cool- not ever has an adult asked me who I think would win a fight, a shark or a dinosaur. Or what my favorite dinosaur is. And they always have to have this or have that. I cant even go fill up the gas tank without being asked for a fucking sweet tea, or a slurpee, or some kind of junk food. It’s crazy man, and it reminds me alot of me when I was a kid. I may not have come from the best place in the world. My parents were not millionaires. They were not perfect, and they didn’t have their shit all the way together. Far from it. But it didn’t matter to me. They were there. They were present. They were my idols for a very long time, and though they struggled in their own ways, ways that I never even saw. They tried their best. They failed a lot, but they succeeded too. I don’t know what Life was like in the 90’s as parents, and I can’t imagine. Were they too trying to compete with someone? Were they too trying to keep up with the Joneses down the street? I have no idea what their mind sets were or how it affected them. But I know they did their bests. And that’s all that we can do. I remember talking at a banquet sponsor night with Mitch and we got on this topic and He jokingly said- about Luke ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS wanting a damn Happy Meal. And he said, “Just get the kid a fucking Happy Meal. Which I don’t 100% of the time agree with as we try our best to maintain healthy diets and eating habits, but once in a while it is nice to see them light over what kind of two-cent toy is inside their little red and yellow box of rubbish. But it makes them happy. And I don’t want to always hear about your dirt bike stories, but it makes Logan proud to tell me. And I don’t really care about what kind of fortnite skin you got, but I can see that it interests you- and so it interests me. And that’s the case with all of them, and even their friends. Being a dad, being a step dad, being a mom, being a parent is hard sometimes man. I mean its hard all the time, and easy sometimes. Its scary. There’s often little balance and harmony between the hectic and hussle and bussle of it all. But there are times when things just kind of stand out ya know?

Case in point. And this is funny, so I hope I can share it accurately. But, One of my pet peeves is the kids eating in their bedrooms, which are upstairs. And it’s not because I don’t want them to be relaxed and comfortable and enjoy themselves while watching YouTube videos, of. other kids. playing. the same. games that they have….weirdest shit ever. You’re gonna play video games and when you’re done, you’re gonna watch videos of other kids playing video games? Damnit man go outside. Sheesh. this is 2020 i guess. But it’s not because of that, its becuase THEY NEVER BRING THEIR DAMN DISHES DOWN. Like ever. And they always try to bargain, and plea that THIS TIME they will, And they don’t. Ugh. And I, or Tiffany will end up going upstairs, and hunting dishes to bring down- but I have adopted an alternative strategy. I’ll go upstairs and find them all and then place the dishes in a pile or group right in the entry way of their bedrooms, so they see them as soon as they come home from school. It makes me chuckle when they get up there and I can hear all the dishes Clink together. YEP! They got em. But the jokes on me I guess because they just bring them down and plop them in the sink and then I gotta wash them. But I relish the small victories against these little love able human adversaries of mine… And I have always, until recently really wondered if I was even really loved by these kids. If I was even really respected. If they paid attention to my “life talks” as Jamie calls them. If they know that they can trust me, if they know that I am not going anywhere, respectable, and trust worthy. And it’s funny how the littlest events can stand out to us and show us that were going in the right direction….

The other morning, Tiffany had fixed the boys cereal before the day began, and Connor and Logan were just sitting down to eat. I was just starting to stir upstairs and was getting ready to come down for my coffee, now apparently when Connor sat down he asked Tiffany if he could take his bowl of cereal upstairs to eat because he was a bit chilly. Tiffany said that was fine as long as he brought his bowl right back downstairs. And as the timing of this whole interaction played out to perfection, He had just been granted  permission to go eat upstairs as I made the turn at the top of the stairs, and they heard me coming down. (Im laughing as I write this) “I’m gonna go put a hoodie on” Connor says, unbeknownst to me at the time. I just came down and got some coffee. And I know that that may sound very insignificant to you, but to me it speaks volumes.

These children had no Idea who I was, What I wanted, how I would treat them, or how long I would stay. And it has literally taken years, I think, maybe just for me?- to truly become solidified with one another. And over these years I have constantly wondered if they were listening, if they cared, If they loved me, if they respected me, if they wanted me and if they needed me. And I cannot even imagine how hard it has been for these little hearts here. They still have so much wonder, and innocence inside of them. But we have all come together little by little as each moment passed. And I know the answers to a lot of those questions now, I think. Yes they need me, yes they love me, yes they see me, yes they want me, yes they appreciate me. Us. Their parents. It’s so easy sometimes, to only see things through my eyes, because theyre attached to my brain, but often I have to make the extra effort to really look back at my own childhood, and remember how hard it is to be a kid. I cannot even imagine being me as a child with permanently split up parents, that would be so hard for me. I can’t imagine. They’re little humans and they hurt easily and they love hard. They don’t need me to compete with anyone except myself. They need me to be the best version of me that I can possibly be. They just need me to be HERE. All four of them, equally. And in different ways at different times. It is not about me anymore, When it was about me I almost died and destroyed countless lives in the process. It is about being a Dad. Being a parent, and doing my best to break the chains that enslaved myself for so long. Hurts, Habits, and Hangups- they all die with me now. I refuse to let these little ones fail, or let them down- although I will, and I will check myself, dust off, and keep going. Because being a parent has no off days. Giving up is not an option, and What we do today as parents will be shown to the world in the years to come. They may not always offer feed back, or tell you how they feel or like it is, they may not even tell you that they love you back all the time, but they are always watching, and listening and learning. They are being molded not only by our words, but by our examples and what we do, how we speak, how we treat animals, and other humans, the life talks we give them, the interest we show, the words we use, and the stories we tell. They’re little sponges so make sure they soak up the right stuff. will you be prefect? will I? Will we? Absolutely not, but it is okay to take ownership and share the lessons that we as adults learn in our short comings with our children. They’re wise beyond their years and they understand more than we may give them credit for. They do love us, and they do need us. We may not give ourselves the credit all the time, but looking back on things- my parents walked on water- even when they struggled. But I must always do my best to make sure that my feet match my talk. Because they can see when it doesn’t. You don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent. Just be there, and love them, and talk about dinosaurs with them! These moments are fleeting and before we know it, we will wish they were young again. Sometimes we don’t recognize the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.

Train up a child in the way they should go. (Proverbs)

I don’t Like to call it a Dad Bod, I prefer Father Figure.

Be one. You Matter.

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