I Am Jack’s Ability to Stand Still

I Am Jack’s Ability to Stand Still

Strip 65

“Sometimes it’s enough that you’re just with Jack.”

In life I have found that if I ask enough people the same question, I will eventually get the answer that I desire.  One thing that I am grateful for is that I am able to discern between the advice that I want to hear and the advice that I need to hear.  These are the friend’s whose voice I hear when I find myself steeped in fear or selfishness or one of the other myriad of emotional states that come part and parcel with fatherhood.

My experience has shown me that there is a fine line between being the father that wants to expose his child to new situations and new knowledge, and being the father that feels guilty about just standing still for a moment.  I’ve worn both of these hats, and one fits a lot more comfortable than the other.  Jack has reached a point in his life where he can vocalize that things he wants to do.  Now, this does not mean that he always gets to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it.  I know that he wants to go home after school on Friday to play with puzzles and he tells me as much.  My 36 year old brain tells me that he’s going to have a lot of fun if I force him to go swimming instead, and the experience of having to get over that “I don’t wanna go!” hump in the past confirms this.  The smile on his face 15 minutes later is just icing on the cake, and I love icing.  Part of being a parent for me is attempting to distinguish where that want borders my belief of what is in his best interest.That said, I do not always get it right.  Actually, more often it feels like I’m getting it entirely wrong.

The thing I tend to suck at is the flip-side of it.  The standing still.  Motivated partially by some lingering guilt or insecurity, I tend to not really want to just stick around the house and have Jack do puzzles or….GASP….watch television.  For me, these are the “down time” activities.  They exist in the spurts of time before breakfast or dinner.  Doing puzzles or playing with his trains or littering the living room with an endless amount of toys (man, is my choice of language here showing my preference or what) are the things that (I think) are best left to filling moments and not days.  I’d rather Jack scooter in circles at the park, than push a wooden train around the living room in circles.  But here’s the thing:  why?  Especially when Jack likes to push a wooden train and, like I said before, he is at the point where he can vocalize what he wants.  When asked:  “What do you wanna do, buddy?”  he will reply.  Sometimes it’s “I just wanna do puzzles” and sometimes it’s “I just wanna go to the park” and even as specific as which park.  If that’s the case, aren’t I simply regulated to the arbiter or what we actually end up doing?  And furthermore, is that a level of control that I’m cool not having?  I think it is.

Which brings me back to my friends.  Whether they have kids or not, I appreciate that some of my instincts and beliefs may work against me.  My friends have consistently helped me to sort out the healthy ones from the unhealthy ones.  Most of these people I don’t, on paper, have much in common with.  However, without being too specific, we share a common problem and we have access to a common solution.  That solution begins with talking to each other.  One days I had told my friend, John, that I didn’t know what I was going to do with Jack that day.

“Sometimes it’s enough that you’re just with Jack.”

There are times when I am granted a level of awareness by the universe that I don’t see for myself.  Sometimes it takes the shape of a friend laughing about something I was taking too seriously.  Sometimes it takes the shape of a sharp word that makes me realize I had been taking something for granted.  In this case, it was the simple revelation that Jack has a good father and that just standing still with him means so much to the both of us.

Thank God too.  I was really tired that day.

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