I'm a father. Ask me what I do, that's all I can think to say. I guess I work for money, too, if that's what is meant. Parenting is what I do. I'd like to teach again, or repair motorcycles, or play baseball for a living. I'd like to do various things, but the one thing I do every day is be a father. I lose patience, and I make mistakes. I probably make some mistakes that I'm completely unaware of, and will come out years down the road. On the whole, I think I do a pretty decent job. I would even say that it is something I am better at than most other things I have ever tried. I wondered if I would be able to be good at it, once upon a time. I don't wonder anymore. I don't pretend to be perfect at it, but I know I'm meant to be here and now, raising these two. And I am good at it. Certainly better than playing baseball or repairing small engines. I hope someday that my kids will agree. Despite the occasional skeptical look on their faces, I think they are okay with me.
The two big differences I notice between me and other parents around me have to do with what I want from the kids, and what they can expect from me. First, I have high standards for them. I expect them to be who they are, and behave appropriately. Viri was having problems today and I told him, this isn't who you are. You know better than this. He looked at me seriously, and said, "Yeah. I'm a big boy. I'm a big help." It's who he is, and he knows it. When Arkaedi Sue gets bigger, I'll expect her to be who she is as well. Parents sometimes look at me like I'm crazy when I ask Viri to help clear the table, or pick up the trash. I know he's only three; but I also know who he is, and what he's capable of doing.
The other difference is that I express myself. When I'm upset, it's clear to everyone. I pulled Taviri across the room the other day for a time out. Not roughly, but purposefully, and I was noticeably upset. I told him, I'm upset, what you did made me mad, and you need a time out to sit and think about it. I see this as a good thing. There is no confusion with me, no fits of rage. If he hits the baby, I am mad. If he spills a little water by accident, no big deal. I think people want to pretend a lot around kids, and not express honestly what they're feeling. I can't do that. And I don't think it would be healthy if I did, for me or them.
I see parenting as preparing the kids to be adults. I have no illusions about it, they are more important than me, they have greater destinies, and I want them to be ready to rise to it. They were born to me for a reason, and I have to accept that responsibility. People talk about doing anything for their children, but they don't set aside anything of their lives when they have them. I see parents trying to live almost independently of their children, and I don't understand that. This time in my life is about letting my kids grow, and guiding them. It's what I signed up for when I procreated. I'm going to do things for myself as well, of course, it's not healthy to neglect my mental health; but it fits in around them, and it's my responsibility to make it work.
I've talked a bit here about finding out what I like, and understanding my identity separate from the intellectual. My children are something I feel one hundred percent. There is no hypothetical that doesn't have me there for the kids, trying my best to do what's right. If I honestly reflect about my children, and what it means to me to be a parent, I come back to an image that I can't shake. It's a silly image, but I think of it a lot. It's an old grainy western, and the posse is riding out, strapping on guns and saddling horses. And the sheriff looks back at me and says, "You don't have to go, Barker. Stay home." And I scoff at him, pulling on my boots and picking up my rifle. "I'll pretend you didn't say that."