Growing up I definitely didn’t have a lot in common with my dad. At least in my eyes I didn’t. I liked sports. He could care less. He liked classical music and science fiction. I could care less. We had our similarities but they often drove us apart more than brought us together. Stuff like bad tempers and being stubborn pains in the ass weren’t exactly things we could bond over. Now that we’ve grown older and I stopped being an asshole (yes surprisingly as a teenager I was an asshole) we are very close. I’d consider my father a great man and one of my best friends. Keep in mind I also consider my ex wife one of my best friends so I’m not always normal.
One thing my father did pass down to me was the ability to play a musical instrument. In addition to playing bass trombone in symphony orchestras my dad was a band teacher. In middle school he taught me saxophone and trumpet. He also kept me from ever touching a set of drumsticks. Not nice old man. I stopped playing in high school due to a poor band program but I still have a trumpet I can play a tune or two on.
Now my son is eight years old. He’s active. He plays baseball and football. Always wants to do something new. He hunts often with my ex father in law and loves it. It’s great for him to have something to bond with his paw paw doing and he’s became quite a good little marksman. At times I was worried though that the same divide in interest that kept me distant from my father would keep my son from bonding with him. I mean the kid is his fathers son. Well not the asshole part but I guess there’s always time for him to perfect that.
Recently my hopes for them finding something they can really bond doing came to light. My father is retired from teaching band in school but still teaches private lessons. One of his newest additions on his list of pupils is an eight year old boy that closely resembles his best looking offspring. Sorry to my sister Melinda but we’re talking about me. Not only is my son getting these lessons from his extremely talented grandfather but he loves every minute of it. Surprisingly he does more than just make farting sounds through his trombone, which was an actual concern that the only reason he wanted a trombone was to do that. The kid is picking it up pretty quick.
We all have our differences and that’s true with family. My father and I couldn’t get it right when I was growing up. We frustrated each other so much that we couldn’t always see the likenesses. It made things difficult for us at times but thankfully over time we found that we could just embrace that and still get along as not just father and son but as real friends. Now that has made me look at things with my son. It’s taught me that he’s going to become his own man and even though we have differences I want to be supportive and close. Not just let those differences divide us.
Seeing my dad and Coleman playing music together is one of the most touching things I’ve ever witnessed. He’s passed on what I’d consider a legacy in music. Not just being taught by a random person in school but a grandfathers craft being taught first hand to his grandson. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be adding to that training him how to steer this old towboat. Not that I’d wish this life on him of being away from family but the thought of that does give me a sense of pride. I mean it’s either that or he wins a Heisman trophy before starting an NFL career that gets him Six Super Bowl rings (the first of which I’ll accept as a gift) and multiple league MVP awards. But no pressure though.
A lot of you read my blog at http://www.theradnation.com which is a very important site to me. It celebrates awesome dad’s and great kids alike. A lot of the time we focus on or hear negative things and it’s good to have a place that builds up the positive. I thought I’d take the time to share with you the raddads I met in my life, my father and his dad.
My father and his dad around 1952
Let’s start with Ernest Bott Sr. My grandfather was a really remarkable and complex man. I didn’t know him all that well but I do remember he was a man who commanded respect. I’d definitely say he was a Stern father when it came to my dad’s childhood. I definitely remember being a little frightened when I was a kid that I may get in big trouble with grandpa if I did something wrong. There is the story of one summer in Florida (yes my grandfather moved to Florida when he retired just like everyone else from Jersey) when I got fussed at repeatedly for letting all the a/c out. I was only three and so scared that I’d get yelled at for going in and out of his house that I didn’t come inside to use the bathroom. Instead I plopped down in his bushes and decided that was a good place to number two. While I cried to my parents and confessed they could barely hold the laughter in and told me they wouldn’t tell grandpa. The next day my granddad said some choice words while cleaning up the mess from a neighbors dog in the bushes. About 11 or 12 years later he heard the story himself and had a good laugh.
Grandpa, Mary, my sister and I probably the same week I crapped in his yard
When I got older I learned my grandfather was a pretty nice guy. I really enjoyed the time I had with him and he was the only biological grandparent that was still around when I was born. It’s apparently that he did a good job with my father. My dad I can definitely say is one of the most decent, loving and honorable human beings I’ve met. Even though he can be hard on himself he definitely is a great man. A greater man for having to deal with the likes of me. I’m sure part of the reason he’s tough on himself is the high standard my grandfather set.
My dad often tells me how tough his father was when he was a kid and in ways my dad was tough on me growing up. That toughness made a bond between them though as my grandfather was my dad’s best man at his wedding. I think at the time of his passing my grandpa was truly my father’s best friend. I know he misses the talks they had immensely. It really shows that you can be tough as a parent and command respect and still have a strong relationship with your children. You can do what it takes to mold your children into good people and still be friends with them and have a strong bond.
Haircuts Christmas 2014
My father and I didn’t always see eye to eye. When I was young he was my hero but once I hit my teenage years I became a nightmare of a son I’m sure. I had trouble with the law. I had trouble with drugs. If there was a trouble you didn’t want a teenager to have I had it. I saw my dad as my enemy then and I know it was hard on him. I know it frustrated him and he often didn’t know what to do, but he stood his ground as a father and kept at it. Now days my father is my best friend. I know he would do anything in his power to protect his boy and do what’s right even today. Just because I didn’t always understand what he said or did I realize now there was a reason for it. He wanted to hold me to that same standard his father held him to. I truly thank him for that.
I don’t know what life has in store for me and my little minions. I’m sure there are tough times ahead. I try to have as much fun as I can with them but I also try to be strict. My job is to raise them to be adults that hold value and integrity. I want them to know that you have to work for what you want and that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Hopefully I continue the great job my father did with me and his father did with him. Hey at least my kid never took a poop on grandpa’s yard, but there’s still time for that.
I recently talked to my oldest daughter Marie’s mom. She’s a senior in high school this year and was accepted to LSU . It’s amazing how the time flies with her and how much I’ve missed. The thought that her high school graduation will likely be the last milestone of her childhood does make me rather sad but that’s not the main thought I had when hearing this.
I thought about how good a kid she’s been over the years. Her mother and I talk quite a bit at times so I’ve definitely got a feel of what kind of person she is. Full of love and happiness. Her mom and dad have done a great job raising her and that definitely makes me happy.
Now that gets me thinking about the two little Devils I have running around now. My kids are definitely good, loving kids, but if left to their own devices I’m sure they could overthrow a small government with the terror they can reign down. They are kids after all so they require a nudge in the right direction at times. The question is am I nudging them the right way? It’s hard for any of us to say that as parents. We all have our own ways of parenting so it’s tough to say what’s right or wrong. I’m sure we all worry to an extent of how what we do now will shape them as adults.
Take a look at me. I was a relatively good kid. Rambunctious to say the least but an A student growing up. Never got into trouble at school until my last year of high school. My parents didn’t drink or smoke. Disciplined me when needed. They were both teachers and they both loved me and showed that every day. That being the case as I got older I got more and more rebellious. Getting into trouble as a teenager was regular, and it was often very bad trouble. My first time getting in trouble at school I got expelled then shortly after that I was sent to juvenile detention. (As far as I know this detention was shut down by the federal government because of many reported cases of abuse to the kids there)
The fact of the matter is I did these things despite having two of the best parents you could ask for. I’m sure once my behavior went South it made things extremely hard on them not knowing how to get me to snap out of it. How did their little boy turn into this uncontrollable royal pain in the ass? I have no idea. This is what scares me about parenting. It makes me nervous to think I could go through what my parents went through with me. It would break my heart to witness my children endure what I did even if it was my own stupidity that did it. I hate that my mother and father had to witness it.
That said I’m happy that my daughter has had two of the best parents she could ask for. It’s truly a blessing to know that they were there for her and the have molded her into the wonderful woman she has become. Of course they can thank me for her good looks but that’s not what we’re discussing now. Same with Coleman and Julia’s mom. She carries the burden of having to do everything two thirds of the time because of my schedule. I couldn’t ask for a better mother or role model for them. Again they are also good looking. You’re welcome.
I guess the point here is none of us never really know what will happen. As parents we have to just be ready to adapt and do what’s best for our children in any situation. Remember they will not always do what you want or what you expect. I know my parents did and they never gave up. Just took them a little while to get the product they wanted and deserved.
“No one knows when the first boat was built, or where, or by whom, or why. Boats began before history; boats are part of our cultural memories. Why else do people gather at the waters edge when tall ships appear?”
Dick Wagner, founding director, The Center For Wooden Boats, Seattle
It never surprised me that I ended up working on a boat. All of my life I’ve been drawn to boats and water. It’s something I’ve never been able to get away from. I always long to be on or in the water. Vacations are planned around this. Can we scuba dive? Is there surfing? On a trip with my whole family a few years back just a quick sailboat trip with my father was one of my fondest memories. Maybe the second fondest to fighting a coconut with my brother in law Ken.
And this memory with my father stands out for the simple fact that my love of all things aquatic comes from him. When I was born he owned a 24′ Sea Ray. Not long after it was replaced to the boat I grew up sailing on until I was well into my teenage years. A 22′ Catalina so perfectly named “Idiots Delight” (my mother made the deal that if he buys it she names it). Almost every weekend of my childhood was spent on that boat.
I wish I had something like that for my children to enjoy. Something that they may not realize at the time, but later on with age they will understand that something so small as a little sailboat was larger than life. It’s hard to do that working like we do. We don’t have every weekend or a whole summer at our disposal. Our time at home is rushed and often filled with so many things to do it seems impossible to fit a whole weekend of relaxing aimlessly on the water somewhere impossible.
But it’s not impossible. We can make time and we often think of other things as being important when really the most important thing you have to do is a bunch of nothing with the people we love. I’ll just learn from the lessons of my father and name my own boat.
I was talking to my daughter Marie’s mom the other day when she told me they were at Marie’s school. She said they were breaking the rules by walking on the grass. When I heard this I had to laugh. It just made me think of how things have changed since I was a kid.
I remember growing up in a small town in Louisiana. There were no houses within a half mile of me. I had Bayou Grosse Tete in front of my house with soybean fields and woods in back. I stayed outside. I had video games. Nintendo was just replacing Atari and I played them quite a bit. Nothing was better than playing outside. Even when I moved from there to a town that was slightly more populated I still stayed outside. On my bike or playing basketball. I was out till the street lights came on every day.
Another difference is I did all of this unsupervised. No cell phone. I left and told my mom I was going play as I let a door slam and never thought twice about it. If people lost contact with their kids for that long now days they would have an aneurysm. Police would be called and manhunts would be organized. By the time they got home that evening the parents would be filming an episode of “First 48” only 5 hours later.
I’m guilty of this too. My kids are young. Julia just turned seven and Bubby is about to be six. At that age I was in the woods unsupervised with my friends getting into all sorts of adventures. Not my kids. I won’t let them in the front yard alone. Is it really that times are that different or are we just paranoid as parents to a new level? Don’t walk on the grass. I think that sounds absurd to give that rule to a bunch of teenage kids, but I find myself saying don’t to a lot of things. Am I any better than these ruiners of outdoor fun? Am I destroying my kids chances for adventure? I remember saying that I would never tell my kids no like my parents did. What a fool I was. I’m probably worse.
I think when I get off the boat this time I’m going to have a week of breaking the rules. Not all of them of course. I can’t let my kids run wild with no rules because, well, they’re crazy. I just think we need to slack off on certain things and let our kids relax. I think a couple nights of backyard camping with marshmallows and scary stories may be in order. That is until too much fun is being had. Then it’s inside with everyone!
“The soul is healed by being with children.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
There is a lot of time while sitting in this wheelhouse to think about life. Both the things you’ve done right and wrong. What makes you happy or sad. It’s good to be able to have quiet time to yourself. A lot of people don’t have this option as their life is hectic. No time to sit and just observe or think about the world around you.
The flip side is that most of this time is spent missing my children or other loved ones. It gives me a lot of time to reflect on decisions I’ve made and things I’ve lost. When it comes to that I usually think about my daughter Marie. I often wonder what she’s up to, or maybe what our first meeting will be like. I wonder if that meeting will ever happen.
The one thing I do know is I feel a strong connection to this girl I’ve never met. I always feel that there is some unspoken force that is drawing us together. I often wonder if it’s just my wishful thinking that makes me feel this way. Who knows? I do know the more I see her in pictures the more I see me in her. The faces she makes and her downright silliness. Unless she’s making a really goofy face then she looks like my sister who is also rather goofy.
The quote at the beginning of this post says the soul is healed by being with children and that’s very true. Spending time with my children is the most rewarding part of my life. It doesn’t compare with any other feeling or accomplishment I’ve ever experienced. My thoughts of Marie are what heals my soul just like the time spent with my other children. I know her somewhat from talking with her mother and for that I am extremely grateful. Who knows? Maybe someday soon I’ll actually meet her face to face. Let’s just hope she isn’t making one of those goofy faces I get from my sister when we do. (Just kidding Melinda)
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Some days I just have to marvel at the masterminds my children have become. Yesterday my son told me that he went to Toys”R”Us and got the lizard man from the “Amazing Spider-man” movie. He proceeded to tell me how I could get the Spider-man toy for myself. That way we could play together. It always makes me happy when my son wants to spend time with me, and that he still thinks of me coming home to play while I’m gone.
Then reality set in. It dawned on me that I have been duped by the greatest criminal mastermind of our time since Lex Luther. He knows that when daddy gets his Amazing Spider-man toy that daddy will play with it for a week with him and then leave for another trip on the boat. That’s when The Amazing Spider-man becomes Coleman’s new toy. That diabolical little genius. Julia would never scheme like this. (Ok that’s a lie. She stole $200 out of my wallet at the ripe age of two years old and placed the money in her princess piggy bank.)
There is only one thing to say about this… Well played son! After I’ve worked thirty-five days on this river away from you I’m thrilled to buy a ten dollar Spider-man for a few hours of hanging out in your room just so you can steal it from me later. Of course this means I’ll have to buy my own Barbie or some other girl toy to play with my little princess too. It’s only fair right? With under a week left I’m just happy to get back home to make up for lost time.
It gets hectic after you’ve been gone. Lots of catching up to do at the house. A honey-do list that may have gotten a little lengthy. Just remember the most important thing you need to catch up on may be a tea party with a couple teddy bears or a vicious battle between the Transformers and the X-Men. Just don’t go back to work wishing you’d just said yes to a playful little boy or girl instead of saying “we’ll do it later”.