Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dad Turned Off the TV

My parents divorced when I was about ten years-old. The details surrounding their relationship have always been vague, and I've never pursued either of my parents for how and why their relationship ended. I don't know why. I guess I just don't want to drudge up the past. Their divorce was civil. As far as I can remember, there was no drawn out legal battle, and they didn't drag me and my brother into the middle of things and use us as pawns for leverage. I think they tried their best to do what was right for us, and, from my perspective, they did a good job of that.

I don't remember dragging around a lot of emotional baggage from the divorce like some kids do. It seemed back then that kids would cry and blame themselves for their parents' split. My brother and I didn't do that. All we knew was that prior to the divorce there was a whole lot of yelling and screaming between our folks; after the divorce, they got along. Sure it sucked that my Dad no longer lived with us, but whenever he'd return us home after a weekend visit, he and my Mom would sometimes sit and talk for hours. I never saw them do that when they were married. So I gladly embraced a divorce that enabled my parents to talk civilly to one another over a marriage of screaming and yelling.

I think the divorce was something of a wake-up call for my Dad; an experience that told him it was time to grow up a bit. I honestly don't have that many memories of my Dad pre-divorce, other than him tormenting me and my brother. Dad liked to "hang out with the boys" in those days, but I think the divorce helped him to sort out his priorities, and my fond memories of time spent with my Dad emerge post-divorce. We'd spend every other weekend with him, and during those times we'd go bowling, see movies, have breakfasts at a little dive restaurant down the street, or follow him around to endless softball tournaments that his team had entered. We didn't mind the tournaments because we'd have the run of the park, or we'd be bat boys and engage in various smart ass back-and-forths with the guys on the team.

But the most significant thing my Dad ever did, the thing that has made a lasting impression on me and to this day has become a priority in my attempt and desire to be a good Father to my girls, is to listen, ask questions and be interested in our lives. We'd be lounging around watching TV in the living room of his 900 square foot rental house, with its' green shag carpeting and bing cherry red furniture, and he'd grab the remote, turn off the TV, and say, "Let's talk. I want to know what's going on in your lives."

"Awww, Da-ad," we'd groan and put up a feeble resistance, typical of pre-teens, but eventually would give in to the quiet of the house as we revealed details of school, friends, sports, family, music and girls. It was a very simple exercise, just a click of a button, that has had a profound impact on my life.

And that impact has even greater significance now that I'm a Dad. Sometimes it's so much easier to keep the girls "occupied". We color, role play, sing, play sports, watch videos, etc., which are all important things, but can sometimes just be busywork. It's a whole different story to slow down, turn off the boob tube or the computer or the iPod or anything that distracts us in our fast-pace society, and say, "Let's talk." It's a lesson from my Dad that I will work hard to employ for the rest of my days. Thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day.

No comments: