God I suck.
That statement holds true for so many of my attributes. So many that if I were to run through the entire list, I would completely blow through the remaining “Premium Subscription” digital storage generously allocated to me by WordPress. Probably an accurate accounting of my self-loathing would short-circuit whatever server bears the unpleasant task of capturing and holding all of my drivel. Some nondescript warehouse in Bangladesh would later be identified as the epicenter in a country-wide blackout. “The Lemonade Chronicles” latest blog post–in which the blogger documents the myriad things at which he truly sucks–is the culprit, destroying the economy of an entire country. The Official Incident Report later serves as one final, crowning testament regarding how much I really do suck.
I don’t want that, so I’ll limit the scope of my confessional today to the fact that I totally suck as a dad. This admission is especially painful since “being a dad” rolls reflexively from my lips or from my keyboard whenever I am called upon to introduce myself in some group setting. Or to update my Twitter profile so that the profile accurately reflects who I am. Or more accurately, who I would like to think that I am.
I basically turned my back on a promising legal career 18 years ago, in part, so that I could have more time to spend with my kids. Maybe my legal career turned its back on me, but that is beside the point. Maybe neither of my kids was even born yet, but that is precisely the point.
I vividly recall shuffling through an unreasonably rainy and cold Napa Marathon in the winter of 2001, several months before I became a dad for the first time. The race conditions were truly horrendous, and I endured primarily by listening to Marc Cohn’s “Things We’ve Handed Down (Don’t Know Much About You)” on a continuous loop on my mp3 player. I cry each time the song hits an emotional crescendo as Cohn wonders about the child he has yet to meet. What an odd and powerful thing, to love someone more than you thought possible, and that someone is someone you have never met. I put one water-logged sneaker in front of the other in order to instill pride in the chest of my unborn child. My someone. I keep running despite the pain in my knees and despite the rain that later turns out to have been sleet. I am gripped by the singer’s ode to the being in his wife’s belly. Gripped by the hope that my son (or daughter, we didn’t know then) would be proud of me: His (or her) dad.
But no right-thinking person who has ever been in anyone’s belly, I fear, has good reason to be proud that I am their dad today.
And Christ, I’ve been blogging about this whole parenting thing for nearly five years now, too. Literally hundreds of blog posts, most of which I real tag or hashtag “parenting” (when I remember to real tag or hashtag something). My Bangladeshi WordPress server practically choking on the sheer volume of missives I’ve written in an all out effort to convince myself and others that no greater dad could possibly exist on this, or any other, planet. I’ve even written a book on this stuff!
So it goes without saying that it really really really hurts to admit the truth of being a sucky dad. It is far easier to continue on with humble brags and delusions. But the guy I saw in my bathroom mirror this morning knows the truth: He sucks.
He sucks because, despite the fact that he should know better, over the last couple days he insisted that his younger son parade through a series of soul-robbing travel baseball team tryouts. If his younger son didn’t quite seem to have the requisite zeal for this endeavor, that’s OK, because his dad would fill the void. By carrot or stick, by hook or by crook, the son would step in line for the parade. And he must step lively, with a determined expression on his face. A faint smile that says “I live for this shit, bring it on!” Unblinking, laser eyes that say “I will work harder than anyone has ever worked in human history! I am the living embodiment of hustle and grit and persistence and heart!”
He sucks because he insisted that the parade must go on, despite the fact that marching in lockstep likely caused longterm damage to his younger son’s respiratory system. The entire State of California is embroiled in some of the worst wildfires in our history. The air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area is worse than Beijing’s. I have all the apps and the web pages that depict the parade grounds in a malevolent red. That practically shout at we app users and web page viewers, “Do NOT go outdoors! You will self-combust! Have you not watched that scene with the greedy Nazi in “Raiders of the Lost Arc”?!” Yes, I’ve seen that scene. I’ve seen it fairly recently. I even wrote a report in 8th grade about the movie, and I think I singled out that scene in particular.
I remember the report as if I wrote it yesterday, though I was only 12 or 13 at the time. The same age of my younger son right now, as he is forced to dart back and forth and huff and puff and swing an expensive baseball bat as hard as the other players who are generally bigger and stronger and swinging baseball bats that are generally more expensive. And to do this with a determined smile and with the proper body language, regardless of the fact that the Particle Count is demonstrably and unquestionably “Unhealthy.” Nearly as demonstrably and unquestionably unhealthy as my over-parenting. Or maybe it’s under-parenting. Either way, it’s clear I suck.
And the poor kid just had painful braces installed on his teeth a couple days ago. His upper lip’s inside has been rubbed beyond raw. I’m surprised I haven’t seen the orthodontic contraption protruding through his upper lip altogether, like some wiry, aluminum mustache. (Actually, I don’t even know if the braces are made of aluminum–I suck too much as a father to have bothered to inquire about this particular detail.) The determined smile I have been agitating about and insisting upon–moving his lips in this manner literally sends of jolts of pain throughout my 12 year-old son’s body. I realize that now. But I was completely oblivious to this reality during the parade of tryouts.
And I remember being annoyed, too, when during a break in yesterday’s parade Everett refused to smile broadly while standing next to a $122 Santa Claus (one of several scattered about) positioned near the CVS checkout aisle. I may have even muttered, “Smile, damnit, Everett” during the taking of this photo. And he did, sort of. Rather than tell his overzealous father that complying with seemingly-innocuous instructions would cause him physical pain, Ev gamely rests his shoulder on Santa’s. As his upper lip is on fire and raw and bleeding.
Rather than tell his helicoptering father that maybe he doesn’t want to try out for this team, or for that team. Or that maybe he wants to take a break from the sport for a few months. Or maybe forever. Rather than give voice to those things, my son silently bears the brunt of my quixotic quest to prove that I am the World’s Greatest Dad. Which of course means that, on this Monday morning, I must acknowledge I have revealed myself, yet again, as the opposite: The World’s Worst Dad.
On the plus side, thanks to the CVS Checkout Line Santa, it appears we are way ahead of schedule with our Annual Beadling Family Holiday Card. That is, if we still did Annual Beadling Family Holiday Cards. I suck at that, too.
Thanks for reading.