Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why I'm Not Strong Enough to Be a Father.

Today, some friends of ours sent some pictures of their new baby, born just a few days ago. He's adorable ... the kind of baby you just want to hold and make sure that nothing bad ever happens to. Like, you know, all of them.

The parents' names are Dawn and Heather. Heather gave birth to their beautiful son.

I've gone into a whirlwind of thinking. Partly from those pictures, partly from the horrible news recently, partly from just being exhausted.

When I was in college, one summer I worked as a daycamp counselor.

I spent three weeks working with developmentally disabled kids, mostly ages 10-13. I got a lot of bruises. But I know I made a difference.

Then I spent five weeks working with severely mentally and physically handicapped "kids", from ages 14-19.

I remember Dave, who talked non-stop nonsense and had to constantly be reminded that he needed to be careful and not just walk into the street. "Why can't we do that, Dave?" "Because we could get hit by a car!!!!" (Followed by him clapping and laughing).

There was Kevin, who was severely physically disabled ... he had to wear a bike helmet all the time because he was very unsteady on his feet and fell a lot. He couldn't speak. But he understood EVERYTHING. He was bright, that guy. I remember how tightly he hugged me on that last day. I hugged him back (this was still in the '80's), and my eyes were pretty wet.

I won't describe the more ... umm ... "messy" aspects of that job. They weren't pleasant. But I dealt with them, because ... well ... they just had to be dealt with. It just had to be done. This is what you do when you're taking care of "kids".

Everyone I worked with said I'd make a great Dad someday.

Well, obviously THAT wasn't in the cards. Scott has mentioned from time to time that he'd like to have kids. I would, too, for a lot of reasons. But I no longer think I'm patient enough. I don't have the time to devote to a child (or children) that I should. We don't have the financial resources to raise a child, at least not as well as I would like.

And then, someone like Jason posts a link to a blog that absolutely breaks me.

This site is beautiful. Gorgeous. And absolutely, devastatingly heartbreaking. Parents whose children were stillborn, or lived only a very short time, let photographs be taken of their dying or deceased children, of their families, of the few short moments that they had with the child they had planned their futures around during their pregnancies. It's deafening and uplifting, at the same time, in its rawness. The picture above is from this site.

How do these people find the strength to ... I don't even know how to complete that sentence.

Your children should not die before you. They should not die before you have seen them grow up. It shouldn't happen. You shouldn't have to know that their lives were only sickness, that there was none of the happy, carefree childhood you imagined for them. I'm very, very unrealistic and adamant about that.

I know that every time one of our pets has been sick or injured, I'd give anything to trade places with it. I would without a moment's hesitation go through what THEY'RE going through, if I could. I can't imagine how intense that feeling would be if it were our child.

Maybe I'm being very selfish here. But one of the reasons I decided not to go into education as a profession is that there were so many other people who I really thought would be incredible at it ... and I didn't think I was of the same caliber. And I believed that only someone who really, truly aspired to teach, and would excel at it, should do so. And I believe the same - even more strongly - about parenting.

We all hate failing. But at least I can avoid failing at something that I'm pretty sure I would never succeed at. Some things should be left up to the pros.


jo said...

Honey, you would have made a wonderful father.

Anonymous said...

Aw buddy. There's no such thing as a pro parent. But there are the kinds of people who do the very best they can every day. Awesome Post. Very very sad, yet beautiful, the links...

Tom said...

Sometimes I think that my only regret in life will be not raising a child. I have most of the same reasons you do. I have stopped struggling with the issue and decided it isn't the right thing for me or a child. I agree with what Jo said. I think you would make a wonderful father.

Jason said...

I agree with the first commenter, sounds like you have a lot more "fatherly" instincts in you than you realize. So sorry to hear about this tragedy. It's good that Scott has a great support group, and most of all you- to help him through this difficult time. Be well.

Sorted Lives said...

I would disagree with you. I think you would be a wonderful father. Let me tell you what I have witnessed in the last few years when it come to these "so called parents,"

Parents NOT parenting and being friends with child.

Sexual and physical abuse from the mother's crack-out boyfriend.

Children raising themselves and their siblings.

Parents only doing for the child who is receiving the gov't check.

Five children living in a one-bedroom house in filth.

I think you probably have more parenting skills in your thumb nail than these parents mentioned above combined!

Sooo-this-is-me said...

I think people who actually worry about doing a good job, are usually the ones who do or would do a good job of being a parent. The ones that never give their actions a second thought are usually the ones that should not even have a house plant.

My friend and her husband tried for years to have a child, when she finally was going to be a mother, she sadly lost the baby at five months into her term. It helped them to get through the loss by having a full funeral, as they knew because of their ages, that was their last chance to ever have a child.

h a i k u g i r l said...

I second what Sooo-this-is-me said. A truly crappy parent would never be able to write something like this.

Scooter said...

Maybe that's why we have so many pets. It's kid of like "Parenting Light." I still you would make a great father.

Matt said...


Thanks all for your sweet comments. I like to be able to at least pretend, with all y'alls help, that I would have been a good father. That actually makes me feel good.

Anonymous said...

I concur with everyone else and reiterate that you could have done well. Give yourself credit where credit is due. :-)