Sunday, August 12, 2012

Confessions of a Geek Dad

When I married my wife she brought along her three young sons from her previous marriage, at that time ages two, four, and six. For the adventure I was about to walk into I could have said “Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy” both literally and figuratively.

On one hand, I was not so worried. After all I was already a father, and I felt quite a successful one at that. I had my teenage daughter from my earlier marriage, and in all honesty she had been a joy to raise. She was smart, talented, funny, and mature. This should be a piece of cake. One well mannered daughter couldn’t be too different from three small boys. Right?

Well on the other hand though, this was different. I realized this wasn’t my daughter. These were three boys, and I questioned if I was the right person for the task.

You see, I really did not have much of a father myself. I am sad to say that my dad was an alcoholic who spent very little time with me, made my life a nightmare when he was around, and then died when I was eleven years old. I was a boy without a father. How could I possibly be a father to these boys.

Growing up I didn’t have anyone to teach me the ways of being a man. I did not have a dad with which to shoot hoops, or shoot deer, or shoot the bull. There was no father to explain how a car works and how to keep it working (I have since discovered quite unfortunately that oil is very important.)

I did do my best to pick up what I could from father-figures in my life.  I learned hard work from the dairy farmer I worked for in the summers, commitment from my cross country coach, wit and humor from my brother-in-law, and gentle strength from our aging pastor.

Still though anyone who knows me now, knows I am a nerd. I am a geek. I am a sci-fi watching, video game playing, computer programming dweeb. I don’t watch sports. I care nothing for cars (as my current vehicle will attest). The closest I come to hunting is searching for meat at the grocery store. So how could I give these three boys what they need?

Well it’s been over three years since the boys entered my life and my home. And the good news is my fears were unfounded. I have learned a lot about what it means to be a father to boys, including the following three reasons that prove no matter who you are, you are the person your sons need.

You don’t have to know all the guy stuff

I found out quickly that the activities I thought were requirements of being a guy, were actually just some of many options. For example, you don’t have to know all the rules to all the sports to play with your boys. I can play catch in the front yard, shoot baskets in the driveway, wrestle on the living room floor, or do the ever-popular steamroller on the backyard trampoline. Boys just want to play. And tackle. And crash. It is true when they say little boys are all afterburner and no rudder. I just try to keep up.

You can learn along with the boys

I have also discovered that no matter how little I know about sports and tools and cars, pre-school children know even less. The great thing about having kids is the chance to be a kid again yourself, to see life anew through their eyes, and do things you never would have done otherwise. Through the lives of my boys I have had the chance to make pinewood derby cars, learn how to play soccer, build a double loft in their bedroom, start campfires in the backyard, and snow board down the neighbor’s hill (although maybe not such a good idea after age 40).

You can share what you do know

And finally, rather than being concerned about what you don’t know, share with your sons the things you are passionate about. It turns out that Carter loves going into work with me in the summer to fix our schools’ computers and I have even taught him how to re-image a lab all by himself. My love for sci-fi and fantasy has translated into our family’s obsession with Doctor Who and my boys running through the house pretending the Slim Jims they are holding are sonic screwdrivers. And even my strange sense of humor has begun to rub off on the boys as I am now getting more laughs and less odd looks when I share my dinner table jokes (“Hey boys, how do you make a Pumpkin Roll? Push it down a hill!”)

In the end being a man does not really mean sports and tools and cars and hunting and inappropriate scratching. It means hard work and commitment and compassion and guidance and laughter and a sense of adventure. Well, and inappropriate scratching too.

Thankfully no matter who you are, these are the things you can do for your boys.

1 comment:

  1. Nice story Eric and good lessons...
    Thanks for opening up and sharing