Fifteen years ago my grandfathers sat me down to share some thoughts with me about being a father.
They took me aside and told me what they remembered about when their oldest children had been born and told me to get used to losing the ability to not worry.
“Josh, your father is almost 60 and I still worry about him. It never goes away and it never will.”
Took all of five seconds for grandpa to start laughing.
When I told him I didn’t think it was all that funny he smiled and told me it got easier and it got better, especially with some sleep.
He was right.
Parenting- Fear & Perspective
I had a similar conversation with my maternal grandfather around that same time and remember him telling me about the first nights with my aunt and how it was only partially easier with my mother.
Sometimes I wonder if my grandfathers talked about coordinating their efforts, but that is mostly my own curiosity because after 15 years in the game I have learned that much of what they said is shared by all parents.
There is always something to worry about. There is always something to be concerned about and it never disappears.
Doesn’t matter if it is mass shootings, terrorist attacks or fear of drunk drivers…there is always something.
The question is do you let fear master you or do you master it.
That is a moment in time I won’t ever forget for a variety of reasons and not just because of the obvious ones.
I remember it because my maternal grandfather sat me down and told me not ignore my father’s condition but to remember my first responsibility was to take care of my immediate family and to focus on my father second.
“I am not so old, that I can’t help you with some of this.”
I remember it because my paternal grandfather told me he was going to get on a plane and bring his son home and I had to say no.
“Grandpa, you are 90 years-old. You can’t do anything to help him heal or recover faster.
“I am his father.”
He and I talked in more detail about the Depression, World War II and a bunch of the other life events he lived through.
I told him about how I felt during 9/11 while I watched my son play with blocks while the Towers tumbled down on television.
And then we agreed there are hard moments as a father but that you just keep going because if you let fear paralyze you life loses some of its luster.
My Facebook feed is filled with a mixture of people screaming in anger and screaming in fear, not to mention assorted pictures of cats and food.
I understand the anger and I understand the fear.
But I will not give into the fear of what could happen. I will not let it stop me from living my life or letting my children live theirs.
That means that I’ll pay attention to statistics and fight to change the things we can to make life safer but not let emotion control me.
It means you and I might disagree on where our focus should be and how much attention we ought to pay to some things too.
It is ok to disagree and if you explain why civilly why you disagree I might even choose to come to your side.
Or I may smile and stay on mine and that is ok too.
Disagreement doesn’t have to mean lack of movement. Sometimes disagreement leads to disruption and progress.
What I Want To See
Fifteen years ago my grandfathers reminded me that parenting is a marathon and that there are always reasons to be nervous and reasons to be optimistic.
They remembered a time when diseases we think nothing of ran rampant and when civil rights wasn’t a given.
Are things better or worse now than before?
Part of me wants to start looking at the data so that we can provide factual support for our conclusions and not just emotional responses.
But a different part of me just shakes his head and says that my family is blessed and lucky.
We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and no one ever goes hungry. That is invaluable.
So if you ask me what I want to see I’ll tell you I want to see a collective effort to work on real solutions to the problems we face.
Not just lip service, but real solutions with specific plans.
I want to see us be proactive and not reactive. It is not about eliminating fear but about making sure we master it and not allow it to master us.
That is what I want to see.