Friday, March 07, 2008

The Most Scared Guy In The World

14 years ago today, I became a dad, when my son Adam was born.

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is entitled The Defector. The plotline is about a notorius battle-hardened Romulan Admiral who attempts to defect to the Federation to avert a war (sorry to any of you who are not Trekkies-- bear with me). When pressed why someone who has spent his entire life becoming a warrior, following orders unswayingly, would defect and throw everything away, he replies that the first time he picked his newborn daughter up and she smiled, he knew he had to make the world (or universe, as it were) better for her.

It was fourteen years ago, but I remember it like yesterday, the first time I picked my newborn son up, at Columbus Hospital in Chicago. I'd never picked a newborn baby up in my life, let alone one who was my child. I remember that I was shaking like a leaf. I couldn't believe that I'd shared in bringing this little guy into the world, and that he was my responsiblity for at least the next 18 years. I was the most scared guy in the world. I'd lived my life day to day for so much of my life up to that point. I was the consummate bohemian. I had no idea how I was going to do it.

Now most of those 18 years I was so nervous about that day have passed. There are now only four years until he's an adult.

I'm happy that he and I are close. I'm happy that unlike my father and I, he doesn't fear me. I'm happy to see that unlike me at 14, he's not filled with self-doubt, anger and despair.

For my part, at risk of embarassing him, he's brought me happiness and joy that I didn't think I was capable of anymore in my life back when he was born.



My role model for cool parenting, Deadspot, despite the fact that he apparently doubts my musical taste, sent me a handmade card, which I still have, when Adam was born, telling me that I was going to be the coolest parent.

That may be the case, but in all honesty, it wasn't me. It's them. Every day of your life, they amaze you. In school, you study the "nature vs. nurture" argument. But really, in the end, despite how you think you may influence them and guide them, they influence and guide you. They bring out the best part of you, and make you rise to the occasion to be the best possible you. They challenge you, ask hard questions and in the end make you realize that like the story of the god blowing dust in the nostrils of the statue to bring life, you brought them into the world, were a little of an influence on them, but in the end, no matter how much you sacrifice for them, they were so much more than whatever you brought to the table, and that they bring you ten times more than you gave up.

22 comments:

Distributorcap said...

what a great story --- with a dad like you it is little wonder he is gonna be a terrific kid

Bats in the Belfry said...

Give Adam a big Happy Birthday from me! You turned out to be one of the best Dad's I've seen. 14 years ago I would have told anyone you couldn't deal with the whole parenting thing. You have proved every one wrong. You and your offspring rock.

lulu said...

Happy Birthday Adam!

SkylersDad said...

Happy Birthday Adam, it's pretty cool that he and Skyler share the same birthday!

SamuraiFrog said...

That sounds beautiful and terrifying at the same time. One day, I hope.

Happy Birthday Adam!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Happy Birthday, Adam!

It's so true what you say about your kids influencing and guiding you. I see it every day at my house.

Jess Wundrun said...

Happy birthday to the little evil dictator.

The joke I was always make about nature v. nurture is that if my "easy" child was born first instead of second, I'd be taking all the credit for being a great parent. Hell, I'd probably even write How-To parenting books.

Fortunately the very lovely first child has always had tons of energy and attitude (you do the translation), so I immediately believed in 'nature' over 'nurture'.

The Elk said...

Happy Birthday Adam.
Johnny, you did a great job except for the Cub fan part. Bet you are both looking forward to attending Cub Home games at a real ballpark (AKA the Cell) in a few years while they try to renovate that antiquated toilet. You know what they say..."You can't polish a turd..."
Opening Day in 24 days...Only 27 days until the Cub are mathematically eliminated from Playoff contention.

Suze said...

What a great post.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Best monkey wishes to you both. Both of you guys turned out pretty good.

Bubs said...

Happy birthday Mr. Dictator!

What a great post. I was just telling our youngest last night that, of all the things I've ever done in this world, nothing compares to the feeling of holding your new baby for the first time.

And having met your son, you're doing a fine job. It's not all nature, you've provided plenty of nurture as well. I think the greatest thing is that you have a teenage son who's not embarrassed to be around you.

Erik Donald France said...

Very sweet and strong. Happy Birthday to Adam and congrats to you!

In the photo, is that you with a ponytail and glasses? If so, an eerie resemblance to an activist I knew in Chapel Hill (Bob Sheldon).

In any case, three cheers!

Tenacious S said...

Happy Birthday to Adam and congratulations to you on another year of fine parenting under your belt. I agree with you about the kids being sort of a revelation to you. I watch my own kids unfold and I feel like I am only here to iron out some of the small wrinkles. It is a beautiful thing to see your children growing and changing and becoming. I wouldn't trade my years as a parent for anything in this world. If it makes you feel any better, we have a picture of me looking at Emma in her bed the day we brought her home. I look terrified.

cheer34 said...

You obviously love your son and are not afraid to express or show him how much. To many parents say they love their children but fail to show them. Kids need the words and the actions.

Happy birthday Adam.

Natalie said...

I think you did ok. You're lucky to have such a great kid

Cap'n Ergo Jinglebollocks said...

huh... I thought Romulans gave their children recalled toys for Christmas.

BUT the feeling is waaay mutual. I sit here in my Cave of Wonders at Possum Lodge and wonder if *I* did the right thing to help MY daughter and son live a better life.

Well, time for cake!!

GETkristiLOVE said...

What a great parenting story. More importantly, four more years and he can vote. We need more of his kind in the voting block!

P.S. Thanks for always including a lava lamp in your pics.

Dale said...

Happy Day to all of you!

Gifted Typist said...

That is so lovely.

Valerie said...

Happy Birthday Adam.

This was a great post...The last paragraph is perfectly true.

I envy the relationship you have with your son...I am not close with my dad...we get along and we know that we love each other, but it's not a friendship. Cherish what you have with Adam, it's a precious thing.

Johnny Yen said...

Distributorcap-
Thanks, though I think that it's the other way around-- with a great kid like him, it's easy to be a good dad!

Bats-
I didn't think so either! That's why I was shaking!

Lulu-
Thanks, on his behalf!

Skyler's Dad-
Yes, it is cool, isn't it?

Samurai-
Take your time, and get lots of sleep-- you'll miss out on a lot of it the first couple of years!

Barbara-
It's funny-- they sometimes make you feel old, but in the end keep you young.

Jess-
I always kidded that I stopped at one because I got it right the first time. Fortunately, my second one, acquired by marriage, is also great.

Elk-
Yeah, the Sox play at a nice place. If you like a mall...

I need to post in the near future about our excursion to Wrigley on your birthday in 1987.

Suze-
Thanks!

Dr. Monkerstein-
Well, the jury is still out on me...

Bubs-
I quoted you on that one yesterday.

Erik-
Thanks!

Yes, that's me-- with a ponytail and nearly 50 pounds heavier. I ate my way through pre-parenthood nervousness.

I think you mentioned him before-- wasn't he murdered?

I actually began to look, at that time, more and more like a friend of mine, also named Bob.

TenS-
It's funny about that picture-- actually, I was good that day; it was taken at a party we had, which honored a Chinese tradition (Adam's mother is Chinese-American) where you keep the kid in the house for a month, then have a party. A few years ago, he looked at the picture and asked why he was scared. I chuckled and thought to myself that it was probably because he was being carried around by a guy who'd had a few drinks.

Cheer34-
I think the death of my friend a couple of years ago really drove in how important it is to let people know how much you love them.

Natalie-
I certainly hope so. Thanks!

Cap'n Ergo-
I suspect that you did.

Kristie-
Thanks! The good thing is that being a native Chicagoan, not only does he vote the right way, but he's allowed to vote, to quote the honorable Richard J. Daley, "early and often."

Dale-
Thanks!

Gifted Typist-
Thank you!

Valarie-
I've made my peace with my father, but yes, I try to give him what I wish I'd had with my dad when I was young.

'Bubbles' said...

Amen, JY. Sorry I missed the big day. Happy, happy belated b-day, Adam!