You're Not My Dad

Frittering around on Facebook, like one does, I came across a post from my step-son, which I won't repeat word for word, but the gist of it was how tired he is of being home and how sick he is of parental control.

Which I thought funny, cause he's only been home for three weeks, and trust me, his parents are far more sick of him then he is of them. But it was interesting the thought of parental control. I can only assume he's talking about how we won't let him use the car whenever he likes and we tease him about getting up at 2:00pm. We do however ask him over and over to take all the things he has strewn about the house and put them away, so I guess there is a level a freedom to be missed.

And I did have to yell at him once. An incident that I don't even want to get into because it annoys me just thinking about it. So although the post was a little bit over the top with the woe is me silliness, it gave me pause to wonder, as I often do, what exactly my role is.

My own Dad asked me not too long ago when was it that I sorta gave up being anything of any real consequence to Taylor.

My answer suprised me because I knew exactly when I sorta gave up.

It was the moment I discovered he had friends.

For the first seven years of our relationship I thought of Taylor as this skinny little piece of clay and it was my job to mold that clay into something passably interesting, or at least get it to chew with it's mouth closed. So of course I watched in horror as Taylor rejected my reality and inserted his own.

And then, one day, out of the blue, he asked if a friend could stay for dinner.


 And the friend showed up. And it was a girl. And the girl was both smart and pretty. And the truth hit me like a cartoon piano. If Taylor can be who he is and still connect with smart and pretty girls, then maybe not only have I been wrong all these years, but my annoyance with him has been way over the top.

 Hello Josh, I'd like to introduce you to some perspective.

 So I gave up.

 And by giving up, I mean I backed the fuck off. Via con dios, my boy.

 Which is not to say there wasn't any further conflict. No parent gets a child through highschool without going ape shit from time to time. Be quiet! Clean Your Room! Stop Fighting with your Brother! Please get your shit off the table. Eat your dinner. And sometimes that's all in the first twenty minutes after little debbie gets home.

The bigger things I just had to let go of.

But the piano crashed down again not too long ago. He had called and said that his bike was broken and that we were going to have to pick him up and take his bike to the shop. Since his bike wasn't really of the best quality to begin with, and being at UC Davis without a bike is like being in church without a soul, we decided that we would get him a new bike and I would take his old beat up one and see if I could get it riding again and keep it for myself. Easy.

So as we were walking his new bike through campus up to his dorm, we stopped to pick up his old bike and he looked at me with slumped shoulders and a slacked jawed expression.

 "See?" he said. "The bike's broken. I keep putting air in the tire and it keeps going flat."

 "Its just a flat tire, Taylor." I said.

 He eyed me with a glazed over look as if I had been speaking Russian just then.

 Shit really?

 How is it even remotely possible that in 13 years I didn't teach him how to change a bike tire? A job so fundamental it can conceivably be done with your teeth and the flat edge of a butter knife. The story has become legend around the water cooler.

 And I must admit that it is not entirely the fault of either of us. He just didn't ride his bike much. Or at all. Ever. Not to school, not to his friends house. Not to the mall. If any of his journeys required crossing the threshhold of the front doorway, he was driven. There was no opportunity to teach him how to change flat tire. This moment was inevitable and beyond our control.

 So today we're out on our bikes (which is becoming a new and fabulous little ritual) my back tire goes flat about a mile or two from home. After getting home and having some lunch, I take the little guy out to the bike shop and we pick up a new tube and head home.

 Yet now I'm at an impasse. Do I rectify a 13 year old father failure by waiting for Taylor to come home and show him how to change the tire tube. Or do I embrace the reality of this alien who is stinking up my guest room and commit to this new understanding that he is not the kind of clay that fixes bicycle tires.

 So I went ahead and fixed the tire without him. If he gets another flat tire somewhere down the line, he'll either ask me to teach him, or find a pretty girl to give him a ride instead (and no one will blame him for picking the pretty girl)

 Either way it's out of my parental control.

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