I think that one of the hardest things for a working father (or mother) can be the thought that you’re not having enough of an influence on your children since you seem to be MIA more often than not. Turns out it takes a village to raise a child because the parents are both slaving away at 9-5s for the better slice of their life.
Children constantly get equated to a piece of clay – something that can be formed and molded – and I think what’s so interesting about this is that we all picture some potter with his wheel, the lump of formless clay spinning and taking shape and becoming something beautiful – a vase or a mug or a decorative, commemorative ashtray – but we forget that clay is very soft and very pliable and it’s not just the big sweeping movements that change its shape and form.
I remember holding a ball of wet clay in my art class when I was a Sophomore in high school. The brown mass was sticky and dripping and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, “I don’t know how to be a potter (parent),” and yet, that’s exactly what was expected of me. Someone had given me this formless object / child and told me to mold it / raise it into something beautiful so that I got a passing grade / created a functioning human adult.
You see what I’m doing here? I’m creating a simile between my high school art class and raising children. Stick with me. Try to keep up…
ABOVE: ME IN HIGH SCHOOL. ME, A BAD ASS.
So, I look to my right and there’s this girl over there and she is making, what I would consider, a functioning vase. It would hold water or fruit juice and it was shapely and pleasing to the eye as well. She acted with the grace and precision of someone that was born for this. Me, I stared back at the lump of clay in my paw and shifted it to my other hand and noticed that every little touch I made, altered it. It was so delicate that even my finger gently resting upon it’s surface would leave a mark.
It wasn’t only the broad strokes that shaped it. It was also the gentle prod.
Should I be concerned that I’m not shaping my children because I find myself trapped in an office halfway across the city? No.
When I come home from work, I read with them, I listen to music with them and I play guitar with them. I explain to them how a record player works and I introduce them to Frank Sinatra and Nirvana. My son loves a Veggie Tales parody called Lord of the Beans and yesterday I told him there’s a book called Lord of the RINGS that he might enjoy when he’s a little older.
There is a burning fire inside each of them.
Likewise, the burning fire that is inside of me, is music. I can’t play it very well but I love listening to it, reading about it, going to live shows, discovering and sharing new bands, hanging out in record stores, etc, etc, etc, on and on. This morning, I walk into the living room in my boxer briefs being tailed by The Boy and I say, “We’re gonna need some tunes, Roar. Why don’t you DJ this party?” and, naked as a newborn, he scurries across the floor, squats down in front of our record collection and begins to meticulously thumb through each sleeve.
Dean Martin? No. Culture Club? No. Meatloaf? No. Pavement? No.
He pulls out my copy of Foreign Spells by The Young Evils and says, “I want to listen to THIS ONE, Dad!” and then the record slips from it’s sleeve and hits the hard wood floor and I inwardly cringe and say, “Alright, hand it over,” and he clutches the eight inch square to his chest and says, “No! Rory do it!” and I say, “Okay, okay. Rory do it,” and with the agility of a chimp, he leaps over a mound of toys, maneuvers onto the couch, hops through a pile of folded laundry, into the clothes basket and onto the arm of the couch where he is eye level with me.
ABOVE: TO SEE RORY AND QUINN IN A MUSIC VIDEO I DIRECTED FOR THE YOUNG EVILS, VISIT: https://vimeo.com/59783476
His tiny arm reaches out and he slowly and delicately opens the plexiglass lid. “Okay, Dad… Okay…” and he tries to take the record off it’s hub but I stop him and say, “Don’t touch that – remember – we only touch the buttons, not the records,” and he says, “Only buttons. Yep,” and then I bend down to pick up the sleeve for the record that’s currently in there and by the time I stand back up, the Tegan and Sarah album that was on the turntable is now hanging halfway off, the plate is spinning and the needle has been knocked off it’s mount and is just scraping up against hard plastic. I make a sound like a cat being tossed into a wood chipper and quickly correct all the mechanical travesties.
Rory hands me the record, which I promptly place onto the circular disc and he says, “Rory press it!” and I take a step back as he hits the START button. The arm rises and the needle lowers and the record spins and he says to me, “Music is here and then goes here and comes out here,” pointing to the needle, record and speakers respectively and, while this isn’t the exact mechanics of the device and is perhaps an over simplistic view, it truly is close enough for me to say, “Yes, that’s right!”
I had explained the process to him once before and now he repeats it before every listening experience like a mantra or prayer. “Music is here and then goes here and comes out here!”
As the first guitar riffs roll out of the speakers, Rory turns and leaps from the arm of the couch, onto the cushions and begins jumping up and down, his wiener headbanging with him. He screams, “Jump, dad! Jump!”
And it is in this moment that I realize that I am making a difference in my little piece of clay. In the few moments that I get to spend with my children in the morning and in the evening, I am able to leave my thumbprint on them. As he jumps up and down and laughs, I realize that he’s not just jumping but he’s enjoying the music and he has picked out a very specific record. I know this because it’s one of two that he always picks. The other is Nirvana’s Nevermind. He loves listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit and then jumping and spinning in circles at “that part” in the song that gives you chills every time you hear it.
Now, me, I am opening up a world of music and reading to them and I’m so thankful for that opportunity but I know nothing of sports and hunting and fishing and “man things”, although I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to camping / sleeping in dirt.
But this, truly, is why it takes a village to raise a child. I know that I can rely on my brother-in-law, Jordan, an avid outdoors men, to teach my children about guns and hunting and cleaning animals and being a Republican…
…and I know that I can count on my other brother-in-law, Jarod, a fantastic artist and accomplished architect, to teach my children about art and design and being Liberal…
…and I know I can rely on my other-other brother in law, Jesten, to teach my children about football and craftsmanship…
Could I do this alone? Sure. I could squirrel this clay into some kind of dish-resembling-object that would hold water. But that’s not what I’ve been entrusted to do. I’ve been entrusted to create a beautiful fountain and so I rely not just on myself, but on everyone around me.
ABOVE: MY FAMILY AT DISNEYLAND WITH MY CHILDREN.
ABOVE: MY OTHER FAMILY AT DISNEYLAND WITH MY CHILDREN.