as i make my way upstairs to my room, i first check in on my oldest who’s deep in the midst of slumber in his room down the hall. i kneel down next to his bed. lit only by a dim night-light located out in the hallway, his body lies twisted, with one of his arms awkwardly positioned behind his back and his blanket all rolled up and wrapped around his two skinny legs. i reposition his pillow, gently straighten him up and cover him back up with his blanket. i stroke his hair, touch his soft cheeks and let out a heavy sigh. what i’ve long feared unfortunately has come true.

i’ve become MY father.

it is indeed an age old cliche that continues to cycle through generation after generation. memories of my childhood come flooding into mind like bits of glass cutting away at me.

painful, hurtful, lonely memories.

the ones you tend to bury deep inside you in order to pretend that you had a normal, positive relationship with your parents.

what have i done? what have i become? how can i break the cycle?

that remote, emotionally-absent, quick-to-judge, quick-to-anger, non-verbal father figure has seeped its way into our very household. something that, in my younger days, i vowed never to let happen.

i’d hate to know what my oldest thinks of his old man. does he know through it all that he is loved? unconditionally? does he automatically get overwhelmed by fear whenever he makes a mistake or says the wrong thing in front of me? does he know he’s special even though the kid gets shortchanged at every turn here at home. the two younger ones demand so much of our attention and our time. he should understand that. but he’s still young and it seems that he “acts out” to gain back our attention. *I* should understand that. but most of the time, i give in. i give in to anger. the disappointment. the hurt.

i need to change my ways before it’s too late. he’s already ten now. he’s going to carry these days with him for the rest of his life.

i just plain expect too much from the boy. for him to be a good example for his brothers. for him to be mature and not regress and act like a silly three year old in front of his little brothers. to be a model student. to be confident and talented. to be athletic and well mannered. to be giving, courteous and unselfish. how in the world should i expect all of that from him when his very own father is exemplary of absolutely none of those things.

i need to stop being a selfish grump and start taking ownership of these boys. and this family. to invest the time and effort. to connect, emotionally. to lead the family in a positive, stimulating way and to not give in to the negative. the anger. for anger leads to hate. and hate leads to suffering as an old jedi master once said.

i’ve been telling myself this for as long as i’ve been a parent. when will these words start to take root? how do i stop myself from gravitating toward my old, cynical, selfish, short-fused, non-productive ways? what will it take? for the time is now. the time is now.

All of my life, I’ve been searching for the words to say how I feel
I’d spend my time thinking too much and leave too little to say what I mean
I’ve tried to understand the best I can all of my life.

All of my life, I’ve been saying sorry for the things I know I should have done
All the things I could have said come back to me
Sometimes I wish that it had just begun
Seems I’m always that little too late all of my life

Set ‘em up, I’ll take a drink with you. pull up a chair, I think I’ll stay
Set ‘em up, cos I’m going nowhere
There’s too much I need to remember, too much I need to say

All of my life, I’ve been looking but it’s hard to find the way
Reaching past the goal in front of me
While what’s important just slips away
It doesn’t come back but I’ll be looking all of my life

All of my life, there have been regrets that I didn’t do all I could
Playing records upstairs, while he watched TV
I didn’t spend the time I should It’s a memory I will live with
All of my life.

-All of my Life by Phil Collins