Leaving Your Mark (Even If Your Mark Is In Grandpa’s Bushes)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Family That Sticks Together

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I often talk about the things I go through as a father that’s away from home. It’s definitely rough not seeing my kids at times. Some days I wonder if I should do something else even though I love my job. There’s definitely no way I’d be happy doing something different and I think being happy at work makes a huge difference in your life. There is one factor that makes working out here possible and that’s my kid’s mother.

My wife and I have been split up for around a year. I never bring this up because I really never knew how writing about it would make her feel. When I left the house it was a very sad time for both of us and a tough decision for me. It hurt her and I didn’t want to make that pain worse by her reading about it in this blog. It wasn’t always easy for me either. It’s the hardest decision that I’ve ever made in my life and I think it was best for both of us. The fact that she needed me to leave for her to be happy is the reason I did it.

My wife and I were married for 12 years. We had our ups and downs the whole time but the last few years it seems we were fighting more and more. Often times I would get upset over the most trivial things and blow up about it. It made me hate myself. I didn’t want to be mad at my wife. I didn’t want to yell at her. It really got to me and the more I did this the more unhappy I became in the situation. I knew I wasn’t happy and I would never make her happy. I didn’t want to be the cause of someone I loved being miserable for the rest of her life, and she would have stayed with me and been unhappy. She’s a loyal woman and would do that to keep her family whole.

After I moved out there were adjustments. I know she was upset with me and people thought I should just go back. She wanted me to come back and honestly I did too. I knew I did the right thing though. I obviously still saw my kids all the time. We started adjusting. One thing was we said no matter  what we would get along and still have a family of us and the kids. We would still do things together when we could. If mom makes a rule I still back her on it and vice versa. I often see parents that say they’ll do anything for their kids but they can’t get along with their ex. I don’t understand that. Relationships change. That doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of our situation for the people who matter most. Our children are the people who matter most in a family. We are responsible to do what’s best for them.

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I can honestly say that now that we are Seperated Kimberley is my best friend. People say they married their best friend and I don’t necessarily think we were that close all the time when we were married. Now I feel much closer to her as a friend. We are generally more concerned with how the other is doing and we still support each other 100%. She is truly one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known and I’m happy to still remain as close as we are. I know she’s finally seeing that the change in our relationship is for the best. Recently I asked her if she was happy and she said yes. She probably finally realized how much of a pain in the ass I was (or am). I could tell she really meant it. That she’s finally happy again. I think as a family we all are even though we aren’t the same.

I guess I always try to make a point at the end of these. Today I think that point is even if things don’t work out we don’t have to be ugly or hateful. You don’t need to make things tougher on the other people involved just because you can’t get along. Relationships are give and take. Like it or not if kids are involved that never ends, together or not.

Don’t Walk On The Grass

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!

Like Father, Like Son

“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.”
Fred Rogers

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”.

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