Binary Memories

I saw a meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “great memories aren’t made playing video games.” I respectfully disagree.

As tough as it is for me sometimes to bond with my daughter, it’s quite easy with my son. All I need to do is run over to Game Stop and pick up a new video game. Then we’ll spend a Friday evening (and most of Saturday morning) tearing it up.

When Danny was younger, he’d rely on me more to help with the problem solving aspects of a game. If there was a level he couldn’t clear or a puzzle he couldn’t figure out, he’d hand the controller over to me. Now that’s he’s older (he’ll be thirteen in May), he doesn’t pass the controller over quite as much.

If you’re an avid console gamer, then you can appreciate the notion that learning the button commands for a game can be like learning a new language. Specifically with sports games where you may be required to press a series of buttons in a certain sequence or all at once. It really is quite fascinating for me to watch Danny play. It’s as if I am watching him develop muscle memory right before my eyes, and I’ve seen him do things in a game that leave me speechless.

To be clear, he routinely kicks my ass when we play head to head, and he’s only going to get better.

Yet through it all – through the levels of zombie apocalypse or World Cup soccer matches or covert, special operations missions in the jungle, or superhero adventures – it’s a special time we share. Danny remains super-informed on games and consoles and new developments, and he loves sharing that information with me.

The student has become the teacher, and I am fine with that because PS3 (and now PS4) time is our time. It’s the time we get to hang out and be father and son together. It’s the time we get to be goofy with each other. It’s the time when I am able to appreciate the young man into which he’s transforming, and I’ve found myself being able to apply some of our shared gaming experiences to real world troubles he’s faced. I hope when he’s out on his own as a grown up he’ll look back at those nights playing video games with dad as some of the greatest memories of his life.

 

We <3 Gaming

Father Time: Undefeated

There’s a saying about aging, superstar athletes that stay in the game a couple of years too long: Father Time is undefeated. Twice this week, I was slapped in the face by that truth. I was reminded that my prime is behind me, and that with every passing day, I am simply getting a little bit older.

The most recent reminder was today when I went in to get my eye exam. Although my new prescription is just about the same as it was three years ago (yes, it had been three years since my last exam ….. don’t judge), the reality is my eyesight is worse now. During the exam, the optometrist had me try to read one of the smaller lines on the eye chart with only one eye. My defeated response to him was merely, “Yeah … that’s not going to happen.”

The other reminder was over the weekend. I was getting caught up on some household chores, one of which included laundry. When I have my kids on the weekends, it’s not unlikely for them to leave clothes in the hamper of their rooms. I try my best to get it all washed and over to their mother’s house so that they’re not without an item they may want or need for the school week. Well, apparently I missed the memo where my daughter graduated from what I will call ‘regular’ teenager underwear to items that can best be described as what would be modeled during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

#WTF?

I was left with the sickening feeling in my stomach that A) my little girl continues to grow up (despite all my mandates to her that she not), and B) that my life had become the Bill Engvall Show (see clip below starting at 13:18)

I know it will continue to get worse before it feels like it’s getting better. My little girl will be a full-fledged woman before I know it. My son will, in a couple of years, be looking down at me as he continues to sprout like a weed. There is no controlling the passing of time, so I guess all that’s left to do is roll with it.

At least I’ll be able to see these changes more clearly with my new glasses.

The Lighthouse

I was filling out a survey today, and I was asked for my demographic information. I was asked to place a checkmark in the box for the range in which my age fell. It was the second to last of five boxes. The thought that ran through my head: “Oh crap I’m getting old!”

With that came an avalanche of other thoughts, all of them having to do with the fact that time continues to press forward no matter how much I want it all to slow down. This includes the continued maturation of my daughter, and the corresponding realization that in less than four years she will be off to college.

I am sure all parents go through those moments of anxious panic at the idea that your little loved ones will soon leave the proverbial nest to live their own lives, and like me, I am sure no parent is ever really ready for their departure.

As much as I have confidence in the young adult my daughter has grown up to be, I still have to pause when I allow myself to think of everything that’s out there in that big, bad world of ours. Yet I know what I must do is place it all in God’s hands and be an undeniable truth in the life of my daughter.

I need to make sure she knows that no matter where she goes or what she decides or who she grows up to be, my love for her will never diminish. I need to make sure she holds as a positive certainty the fact she can always count on me.

With that, I give you the poem that was born out of this moment of panic.

LIGHTHOUSE

In the darkness of your unexplored world stands a lighthouse

Less remarkable with each passing year

Weathered … beaten down by the crashing waves and the salt spray

It’s shone it’s light bright for you

From your very first voyage, a casual perusal in the harbor

To your treks of discovery, each one taking you further and further from port

Now, as you prepare to escape the confines of the bay

And explore the vastness of the mysterious yet exciting seas

Your lighthouse remains prepared

Diligent … Steadfast …. Anxious

What storms may come? What weather may weigh down your sails?

Your course is uncharted, each direction a new opportunity

Each decision a tightrope walk between failure and success

Yet through it all, your compass remains true

A constant unmoved by the chaos that is ready to attack at a moment’s notice

Through it all, your lighthouse shines bright to help guide you through the unknown

To help you see when you cannot

To warn you of the danger that lies ahead

And to greet you with open arms as you find your way back home

Lighthouse

The Outlier (W@HBC Day 4)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 18

In statistics there are outliers. An observation that is well outside of the expected range of values in a study or experiment, and which is often discarded from the data set (Dictionary.com). This weekend, it was very apparent the statistical norm for most men is a sense of fatherlessness in their lives. Dads that are absent because their careers are more important, or dads that are brutal and abusive, or dads that are literally not present.

This reality can be summed up in a story that was shared at the retreat by presenter Morgan Snyder. A nun at a men’s prison had some extra Mother’s Day cards in her office. As word of this got out around the prison, there was a mad rush by the prisoners to get a card for their respective moms. The demand was so great, the nun reached out to Hallmark, and the greeting card company sent her additional inventory so the prisoners could send cards to their mothers. As Father’s Day approached, the nun once again reached out to Hallmark in anticipation of the demand for cards. Unfortunately, not one of the prisoners chose to send out a Father’s Day card.

I cannot relate to that. I cannot imagine life with a father like that, a father that would make me want to have nothing to do with him. I do not understand how men choose to separate their hearts from their children, especially their sons. All children need love and guidance as they grow. I know the love I have for my own kids flows from the love I received from my parents. Their sacrifice, devotion, and attention. My father went out of his way to tell me he loved me, even to the point I didn’t want to hear it anymore.

I am an outlier at this retreat, and I am blessed.

But just as my dad continually told me he loved me, our spiritual father is continuously telling us how much He loves us, even when we’ve gotten to the point of no longer wanting to listen. Even when the weight of the world feels heavy on our shoulders, God is throwing His love at us.

In an earthly sense, I may be an outlier because I was given an amazing dad. But in the spiritual sense, we are all given the gift of God’s love and grace. We just need to open our hearts to our Father’s calling.

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)

Outlier

Daddies and Daughters (and Heartbreak)

I’ve had my heart broken, my world shattered, my dreams extinguished in the blink of an eye. I’ve felt the hollowness of failure; the lung-gripping stranglehold at the realization that everything of which I was sure turned out to be false. It was the worse feeling in my life, and it was a pain I thought never could be surpassed.

I was wrong.

It’s become very apparent to me that as my daughter continues to grow-up and mature into a young adult, as she continues to scream for independence and long for adulthood, my place in her life continues to diminish. With every shrug of the shoulders and with every roll of her eyes, the chasm between us grows greater.

“I don’t need you. You’re so boring. I’m so embarrassed. You’re not funny (or interesting or .. whatever).” She doesn’t say these words, but she doesn’t have to. My daughter’s eyes and body language yell it for her.

There was a time when the hugs were never-ending. The smiles were iridescent. The look in her eyes was one of love and wonderment and joy. I am sure she still feels those emotions, but not as a result of seeing or being with me. Now it’s celebrity crushes and her life on Instagram. It’s hanging out with her friends and shopping for clothes that leave me questioning whether they’re appropriate or I’m just an old man with dated sensibilities.

And she’s only thirteen.

Like a truck rolling downhill without breaks, the void between me and the little woman that used to be my baby girl will continue to gain momentum. Whereas now I’m a footnote to her daily life, over the next six to ten years, I think I’ll be lucky to be a mere afterthought.

She continues to take in new experiences. She continues to view life through the evolving eyes of an adolescent that can see womanhood far off in the horizon. She continues to grow, her once tiny hands now too big for me to maintain being wrapped around her finger.

And as for me, I thought I knew what heartbreak felt like. As usual, I was wrong.

I know the correct thing to do is to give her the freedom and independence she so desperately craves, still maintaining boundaries and being there to course-correct as needed. But I must allow her to navigate these new waters on her own, a direction having been provided by the previous thirteen years of parenting, but now with her hands at the helm and not mine.

Somewhere in my heart I know that in time my daughter will once again incorporate me into her day-to-day. That’s the way it happens, right? We rebel. We know better. We live life, only to realize our parents were right all along. That’s how it happened for me at least, and I know I still struggle with having the type of relationship with my mom I can only assume she wanted to have with me from the beginning.

So here I sit, a tear in my eye and a heaviness in my heart, as I force myself to learn to let go of that little girl that was, and stand in the background for the young woman that is. I sit here with my heart broken …. broken by the one person who captured it from the very second she was born.

And such is Fatherhood.