I Don’t Know What to Do

My son is almost a year and a half old, and I’ve started to shift how I behave despite my belief system.  The best example, is I say ‘fuck’ a lot less in front of him than I used to.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word fuck, and personally, I don’t care if he says it, but I realize that other parents, and teachers don’t agree with me, and I don’t want to deal with it.  It’s one of those ingrained beliefs that regardless of how much logic, I won’t be able to explain to them in a way that convinces them my son is doing nothing wrong, so out of the laziness of not wanting to have that particular argument, I have reduced my use of the word.  Moral compromise number one.

Yesterday, at the park, my wife and son and I met a couple with their baby, who is a month or so older than my son.  We had brought bubble guns and both children were having fun and interacted in a very sweet manner.  It was adorable, and the little girl’s parents were extremely nice.  At the end of talking with them, the little girls mother invited us to their church.  It was genuine, and having just found out we were knew to the state, it was inviting us into a community in which we may meet other people with kids.  Her intentions were great, and as a result, I find myself tempted to go.  It is a chance to meet nice people, and I think one thing that churches CAN do well is create a sense of community, and I think that would be great for my son.

On the other hand, I don’t want to go to church, in addition to being something I was never interested in, I do think in large part that organized religion is a huge detriment to society.  I have no problem with people’s individual faith, but for some reason when you introduce an organization or governmental structure to it, corruption seems inevitable.

It has been more than 12 hours, and I’ve been weighing it in my mind, back and forth.  I could go, because obviously there are some genuinely good churches, and I could try to just stay vigilante that their teachings align with what I want my son to grow up knowing/believing, but I also like the idea of him not growing up with organized religion.

My wife, strongly believes in Jesus, and yet she has never really been (at least not for any decent stretch of time) a member of a specific church.  Her faith, and her kindness are no less than that of the people I know who go regularly (I find in a decent amount of those weekly or Wednesday and Sunday churchgoers that she is a better person).  I on the other hand was raised Catholic, an institution which I would not recommend to anyone, and I think I’m genuinely fucked up because of it.

Sure, I know more about religion than most protestants that I know, but the amount of guilt and conflict I feel regularly is seriously problematic to living a happy and healthy life.  I often feel guilty about things I know that I shouldn’t, and the fact of how deeply embedded in me some of their bullshit is really makes me disgusted with myself.  I haven’t considered myself a Catholic in at least 15 years, and yet, when discussing religion with Protestants (many of whom have annoyingly referred to themselves as ‘just Christians’) I have often said “we’re Christians too, we’re the original Christians” finding myself lumping myself in with a religion that I couldn’t want less a part of.

As I said before, I have no problem with people of faith, and to be honest, I have a great respect for many of them.  My mother is a devout Catholic, and while I have a lot of logical issues with the way she thinks, I think that overall she’s a great woman with a strong moral compass, and I have the utmost respect for her.  Also, I have a goddaughter in the Catholic Church, and while I don’t personally believe in that faith, if I ever were left in charge of her, I would raise her in the religion as I promised to do (luckily she’s 17 and I don’t think that’s really something I’m going to have to do, but I would if it happened.)

My problem is that I don’t want my son being raised with the hang-ups, or round the attitudes that I associate with religion.  I don’t want him thinking sexual behavior is deviant, or sinful if it is between two consenting adults, and there are all of the other obvious issues that many people have with religion, but there are the less obvious.  I think church itself is in many ways a bragging right issue.  I know people, who think they are better than others simply because they go to church, people who are kind of crappy people, but they go show up in a building once or twice a week, and listen to someone else tell them about a book they haven’t read.  I believe, if there is a God, and He (or She) made everything, then why do I have to go to a special building to celebrate him?  Why isn’t all of nature ‘His house?’  Why do I have to go listen to some other flawed human tell me what He means?

I have spent the last 33 years determining my own views on God.  Trying to un-brainwash myself, and figure out what I believe, and I’m worried about bringing my son into that same scenario.  On the other hand though, what if this is one of the good ones?  What if this church is truly not-for-profit, and these people are genuinely loving and good people?  I don’t want to deny him that either.

So, I’m torn.  Because I want what is best for him, and at this point, I’m genuinely not sure what that is.

I Absolutely Love Being a Father

Sometimes, our lives get busy, and we tend to overlook things.  We get into a rhythm and things get done more from rote memory than conscious decision.  This doesn’t mean that those things aren’t important, or wonderful they are just easy to not give much thought to.  Then a curveball comes through, and we are snapped back into the reality of our lives.

Thursday morning before my son or I woke up, my wife left to fly back up to Massachusetts for one of her best friends’ baby shower, and so I have been on sole parenting duty for two and a half days.  I knew for months that it was coming, but I’ve never gone so long without a pair of helping hands with him (14-15 hours max probably) and so I was a little nervous.  Would he sleep well, I had to work Thursday and Friday and needed to get some rest, and so as a pessimist I had all the possible negatives run through my head.

None happened.  The last two days have been the best I’ve had with him at least since I went back to work.  We’ve played, and had pizza, and he’s slept great, and got himself stuck in numerous large toys.  It hasn’t been without him crying, and there have been all the lesser quality everyday baby things (i.e. Diapers) but it’s been a blast.

It reminded me that I love being a father, and I really needed to be reminded!  The thing with a lot of things in our lives, is that the repetition makes us forget, and with things like fatherhood, it’s easy to forget.  I never forget that I love my son, when I look at him, I feel it instantly but that is a different feeling than loving being a father.  And I’ll be honest, I may only love being HIS father, maybe it’s just he’s the perfect kid for me and I’d love it less with another kid, but I love being his father, and for right now that means I love being A father.

This experience has made me realize that when things get busier in our lives, if my wife needs to go take care of things, I can definitely step up.  I think I could definitely do a longer stretch of time, and that it would only make me happier.

These several days away from wife, also made me realize that I love being a husband, in addition to loving her.  I love that I can hold down the fort so she can do the things she needs to, and so she can get a little bit of a rest.

(Now just in case I made it sound like I don’t do much on a normal basis, that’s not really the case.  I change diapers and get up at night regularly, and I think my wife and I are split close to down the middle. Also I realize that getting pizza and not cooking probably sounds much easier than many parenting situations and I don’t for a second think this is as hard as being a single parent.)

More Confidence and More Fear

When I was a little kid, I not a particularly brave child.  I was afraid of bullies, afraid teachers, and afraid of my parents.  I worried about consequences, I worried about getting beaten up.

I didn’t know who I was either.  I mean I knew something’s that I liked but I never felt like I had a clear identity.  No group really wanted me, and I desperately wanted to be in any group that would have me.

Then in high school I had a group, and I found some form of identity.  I was still completely spineless, but at least I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, and between writing and trying to film with friends I had some sense of self.

So where I guess my point that I’m trying to get to REALLY starts in college.  When I went off to college, within a month I met my first love.  It took off quickly and she loved me back.  For those first few months I felt untouchable.

By spring break, we were still doing great, we had met each other’s friends and families.  I was already pretty convinced she was the one.

During spring break it became apparent to my family that our relationship had progressed faster than anyone was ok with.  To put it plainly, I was sexually active and both religiously, and logistically they thought it was a bad idea.  I had parents, grandparents, uncles, and a sibling telling me what I should be doing.

Like any teenager, I was pissed.  The difference this time, was that for the first time in my life I HAD to stand up for myself, but mostly because I had to stand up for her.  I didn’t tell anyone to ‘fuck off,’ or anything like that, but I did what I wanted, despite the consequences.  I made it clear, if the money for college was conditional that I’d rather live the way I wanted than take the money.

I moved in with my girlfriend during the summer despite their objections.  (I should mention that most of my family was trying their hardest to do what they felt was best for me.  I never doubted that, in fact at one point I helped my father with construction work when I was unemployed because he knew I needed a job/money.  But knowing that wanted what was best did not help at the time.). Eventually I moved to Colorado, which really strained my relationship with them all.

During this relationship, I was ballsy.  I would tell bosses when they were wrong, customers when they were being assholes.  For a three and a half year period I took very little shit.

Anyway, in the end my relationship with my girlfriend failed.  For a long time I blamed my families interference, but now I think it wasn’t meant to be.  But that relationship in many ways is exactly what I needed for that period in my life.  It made me fight.

Then I moved home, and my family was great. They helped me get back on track financially, they helped me when I had a few significant psychological episodes, and we slowly built our relationships back to better than they had ever been before, I’m not sure that could have happened without nearly break either.

Between the time when I moved back, and the time when I met my wife—which was coincidentally about three and a half years as well— I maintained some sense of the ballsy attitude at work.

Then I met my wife, and I quickly knew I was going to marry her, and this time knew that feeling was real.  Then I got laid off.  I hated my job, but I was so devastated by the idea that after five years they were getting rid of me.  My dad calmed me down and told me it was all going to be fine.

I decided to go back to school full time.  I had been wanting to, and saving to and I decided it was time.

My wife, Sarah, and school gave me a sense of identity and confidence.  She encouraged me to work towards my goals even as they changed, and I found quickly that I was excelling at school for the first time ever.

After my first year back at school, I decided to do an advertising internship.  I had heard about an advertising company that had given a friend good experience.  I started and found out that despite the name it was a marketing agency but I was ok with that not entirely knowing the difference, and I learned a lot.  I had a boss who I really couldn’t stand but needed to finish in order to get credit for the internship.  So despite the boss being a complete jerk, I kept my mouth shut.  I couldn’t mouth off the way I had before.

I was finally starting to feel a sense of who I was, but I was losing the ability to stand up for myself.  It was the beginning of reverting back to the scared little boy who couldn’t stand up for himself.  I had had my ass kicked before and I couldn’t bare the thought of going through it again.

The internship ended, and I graduated, and got a couple of crappy jobs and again was crippled with fear.  I was getting married and had responsibilities and had to keep up.

In the song Renegade, Eminem and Jay-Z take turns saying “never been afraid to say what’s on mind, at any given time and day, because I’m a mother fucking renegade!”  I used to hear that and think it described me.  I really felt like a renegade, but now I’m not sure I ever was one.

I am confident in beliefs, I voice my opinion and my thoughts on political and social issues, you might even say I’m a big mouth, but there is a difference between saying what I think in the abstract, and standing up for myself and my wife and son.  For a long time now, I’ve felt like a coward.  I was not sure I had it in me anymore.

So here I am, a husband and a father who is afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing everyone, who got laid off—again.  I have been given the gift of no choice.  I have had to actually follow my dreams because everyone else’s have failed me.  I may get another job and if I do I will work hard, and try to provide for my wife and son, but I’m not sure I can do the biting my tongue ‘thing’ anymore.

To quote a different Eminem song, “to think I was afraid to make a single sound,” “I didn’t want go another round.” (Guts Over Fear)