My Two Sons, and Their 3 Dads

We just celebrated Father’s Day. As is the standard on the holiday, social media was full of the praises of… Mothers? Yes, but also of fathers. 

It got me thinking: what kind of father am I? An imperfect one, with no doubt. But I wonder if one were to aka my sons, what would thier answer be? Split, I think.

So let’s talk about that.

Dad 1: the loving dad. This is the man who was there at their respective births. The loving father who beams with pride at the successes of his learning sons. This is the man who has shared his love of books and reading. The man who’s strangeness has rubbed off on boys who would rather read Percy Jackson than green eggs and ham. This is the fun dad. I’d love to think that this is the dad my sons will remember and emulate when I’m gone.

Dad 2: the broken dad. This is the dad that my toddler runs to “help” stand up when he falls. This is the dad whom my sons have learned to ignore his grunts and whimpers of pain. This is the dad that my sons are eager to serve, to help, to support… But that feels exhausting shame that any of those things are needed from mere children. This is the dad that has to constantly renig on planned fun because his body has given out long before his desire to play with his children. This is the dad that my boys will remember.

Dad 3. the emotional dad. Years of medications have removed all but 1 or 2 of the dad’s emotions. The remaining emotions include anger and loud. My boys don’t like this dad…. And neither do I. He’s a jerk. He yells altogether too much. He can be cold, and unbending. He is the disciplinarian dad. He’s the one to whom my children give a wide birth. He’s the one I resent the most. I wish he’d go away and never come back (read that in Smeagol’s voice).

And here I sit, the broken dad wishing I could always be the the loving dad. Wishing that I could kill the emotional dad. I am my son’s 3 fathers (lest anyone assume the worst of my wife). I have realized that my sons have to deal with the 3 distinctive personalities of mine (these are not like… Split personalities… Or anything…. No coats are needed for me, thank you very much. No pills to make “the voices” stop, or anything. This is a proverbial conversation, not a literal one).

There we go. Kind of a lame conversation ending. Hopefully the whole of the conversation didn’t fit into that category.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow imperfect dads. You perfect dads should write a how to book: it’d sell well.

Oh, and a bonus “we’re actually sleeping,” selfie from my sons:

Night Terrors, Fever Dreams, Waking Dreams, and 8 Legged Things:

It is chasing me. No matter how fast I run, the beast is just on my heals. It starts in my childhood neighborhood. It’s in the neighbor’s back yard. It almost has me. It will consume me when it gets me. Not eat me, no: that’s not enough. It intends to devour my soul. I try to catch glimpses of it, but it is hard to look back while I’m running. I can see a hairy leg here, or a massive pincer there, but mostly I can see the shadow. This is shadow unlike any caused by a lack of light: it defines the lack of light, it destroys light. It is true darkness. I can feel the evil emanating from that darkness, and it wants me. The faster I try to run, the slower my legs move, and it is going to get me. In my heart, I can feel the eight legs moving, but the beast makes no sounds as it moves at the speed of the wind. It’s almost here! I fall! It has me! I’ve been awake for minutes, but the paralysis still holds my arms and legs! I can’t breath! No, I can breath… Can I move? What will happen to me?

We have a rule, unspoken, I think, that the person who has to work the next day doesn’t stay up with the kids who don’t sleep. Normally, that rule has worked in my favor (though not always)… tonight, however, it falls on Julie to sleep, and me to get tortuously woken up every time I’m on the verge of sleep.

Ezra had a few night terrors as a younger child, he still gets nightmares. We didn’t know what was going on, at first. I think they were as scary to us as they were to him. We’ve grown accustomed to them (fortunately they aren’t all too common), but they are no less disturbing. Once we had a name for them, it helped to explain what I experience.

Nathaniel’s are different. His, more like mine, are waking dreams as much as night terrors. He’s had his eyes open and is aware of what is going on for the last several hours, but there is more happening for him than for me. “Daddy the spiders are behind you!” He screamed as he dives into my arms. His fever makes him uncomfortable to sooth on a night this warm. “Daddy, their trying to eat me!”

It seems, as he’s described it, that his terrors involve spiders as well – (though he did mention a particularly terrifying octopus as well) – it is the spiders both big and small that are surrounding him and trying to get him.

Unlike the defenselessness involved in my dreams, the poor boy is exhausted for another reason: He’s been forcefully pointing his arms and making shooting noises all night. At first I thought he was playing, but, while his eyes are open, he is clearly asleep. He’s terrified, but he’s fighting the monsters of his dreams. And every once in a while he gets one (“I killed it!”).

I hope that his waking fever dream doesn’t create in him the phobia of all things arachnid that they have for me, but I take some hope in knowing that, no matter what, my son won’t go down without a fight!