When I was a young man, I dreamed of having a dozen children. Being 54 and never married, I’ve obviously had to cross that off my list. Or so I thought. Two years ago gained two sons, not of my own loins springing. Suddenly I have two sons, seven grand children, two great grand children and a handful of various others I don’t really know how to categorize. (As for the twelve children of one’s own siring, I left that up to a good friend and his wonderful wife.) So, in essence, there is my baker’s dozen.
I have always looked to God to help me deal with others. But, mostly, I have never really had to deal with others. None of my siblings had any children. My uncle’s late family was like nieces and nephews, but I hardly ever saw them outside of Christmas and birthdays and such. So, in essence, I have spent most of my life by myself. I learned to entertain myself with my own music, leaning languages and foreign cultures, dreaming of great journeys and maybe finding a place I would fit into someone’s family. But it was always fantasy.
No more fantasy. I am now invested in the lives of the people who chose me to be their family. Is that presumptuous of them? Maybe. But I could have said no. But I can’t say no. However, I have no clue what I’m doing. I say the wrong things all the time. I get upset when they don’t think like I do. I’m having a really hard time trying to adjust to being just one of a group with each person having his or her own mind about how to live life.
Right now, there might be a lot of young couples and many with a new baby who are understanding where I am coming from. I don’t think anyone is ever really prepared to become a family. Judging from the 50% divorce rate, half of people can’t even get past being a couple, much less a family. And now that the single-parent homes outnumber the two-parent family, it’s pretty easy to see that there are a lot of people out there who just can’t hack what it takes to be invested in a family. So, maybe what I’m feeling isn’t all that uncommon.
What is hard for me, though, is that I don’t have the pieces of paper to prove that I have this family. In this world, everything is predicated on pieces of paper. House titles, car titles, school degrees, professional certifications, marriage licenses, birth certificates and the like define every inch of our lives. But my family doesn’t exist on a piece of paper. I am still listed in the official books as single, no children. When I tell people I have a family and I try to explain how that is, they look at me with astonished wonderment, as if they are trying to figure out the location of the melon truck from which I fell.
Today, I was trying to explain my family to a lawyer. It was like trying to explain a cell phone to someone from the eighteenth century. It couldn’t possibly compute to him, because he cannot find such a thing in all his tons of law books. “How is it that you let this person handle this legal situation for you?” “Well, he’s my son, and that’s what we agreed he was going to do for the family.” ??????? I left him speechless.
All quizzical looks and confused comments from outsiders aside, the biggest problem has been with myself. I have a love/hate relationship with my family. I love them all dearly and would not want to see any of them suffer. But I often hate what they do or what I perceived that they do, and so I am often the cause of their suffering.
I suppose that all couples eventually face these problems as their children reach adolescence and adulthood. You are still the parent, but your children become their own people, and you can’t tell them what to do anymore. As I have often watched others struggle with letting go, I always figured that I would be smart enough to avoid that. Yet, I am suddenly realizing that that is exactly my situation, and I am failing just as miserably as all those other fools.
Chances are I’m never going to find that lovely young wife to bear me a gaggle of toe-heads. So, this is going to be it for me. I wish that I could have had all the practice that comes with raising them from birth. I wish that I had been around to see how they were raised and what shaped the way they think. I have a lot of information about it, but I don’t understand what it really felt like because I didn’t experience it. So, I am playing with half a deck and am going to have to learn to make the best of it. I don’t suppose it’s much different from what today’s average blended family goes through. And I guess that gives me a clue as to why our world is in such turmoil today.
OK, I’ll read the Good Book, the human operations manual, the Bible. One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that the stories in it reveal just about every sort of human interaction one could conceive, and also reveals just about every mistake one could make. It also reveals how different choices in dealing with human drama play out to different ends. So, if I look in the Bible long enough, I will probably find out how to be a dad. I will probably also realize that dads make a lot of mistakes and need a lot of forgiveness.
Being a family isn’t easy. That’s why God gives children to couples when they are young and they can survive the drama and the trial and error of raising them. When you are older, you use that experience to spoil your grandchildren. But you are wise enough to know your place. And you know your limitations physically and don’t overdo it. I have the disadvantage of being old and set in my ways. So it’s going to be harder for me to survive my mistakes. God give me strength. At my age, I’m going to need a lot of it.