Tooting Our Own Horns

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. 

The School of Hard Knocks

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.

image

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!

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Hopeful

“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)

image

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”.

20121128-104041.jpg

Sugar High

“Daddy I want chicken nuggets!” This is one of the most repeated sentences by my son. Followed by pizza or candy or a million other foods chock full of enough unhealthy crap that if consumed on a large enough scale it would kill a horse.

It’s tough to get kids to eat good, whole, unprocessed foods. Sometimes it seems impossible. The best way is to lead by example. Well that brings us to the diet of a tugboat captain. It’s not any better than my sons. In fact it’s based on the four food groups: coffee, cigarettes, fats and cake. It may not be that bad for most but we aren’t the healthiest people on earth. That doesn’t help our jobs much since the coast guard gets increasingly strict on our health by the minute.

I myself was no different when I first made it to the captains chair. I was consuming mass quantities of garbage on and off the boat. My diet consisted of frozen pizzas, hot pockets and honeybuns on the boat. At home it was a combination of Five Guys, Sonic and Ben and Jerry’s. I remember looking over on this very boat while I was training and my captain laughing as he watched my waistline grow at an epic rate.

Then there was home. My eating habits were becoming my kids eating habits. If daddy gets Sonic then we must have it also!! It’s only fair right? It made me think back to my childhood. None of us were pressured to eat healthy and that leads to some fairly poor eating habits later, a trend I didn’t want to set for my children.

Well for us out here it starts on the boat. Face it this is our home usually at least 2/3 of the time. That doesn’t make it easy. We can’t hop in the mini van (I don’t have a mini van) go to town and buy chicken breasts, grass fed beef, baby spinach or other healthy choices if we run out. We can’t go to a gym so exercise can be difficult. We all just have to remember to do what we can, take whatever steps we can take, and lead by example. It’s not always easy but it’s not impossible and when you give your kids these healthy habits its something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives, probably improving their health as adults. You don’t have to force a bunch of crap they don’t like down their throat. Just cook more lean meats and vegetables. Let them eat fruit for snacks instead of that bag of M&M’S.

So the next time you call that deckhand in the galley think twice. Don’t ask for that pizza topped with Swiss Cake Rolls, sprinkled with skittles and a side of candy coated hog cracklin’s dipped in deep fried Hershey’s syrup topped with whipped cream. Get something that you won’t regret later. We already sit on our asses 12 hours a day. We don’t have to try and make them wider at the same time.

Surrounded By Turkeys

You all know the scene on Thanksgiving. Mom and the ladies are all scrambling around the kitchen preparing enough food to feed an entire army battalion. The men are gathered around the television watching one of the many football games on today while they wait to destroy every bit of food prepared by their wives and mothers. The kids are all together playing. It’s a gathering that reminds us why we are thankful and what this day is all about.

Well that’s the scene if you’re not stuck on a tugboat. Things are different here. Everyone is a little grouchy because we’re stuck here away from the families we love. The deckhand cooking today is glazing a ham with a concoction that only Jesus himself knows the contents of. I’m pretty sure the sides will be stovetop stuffing and Kraft mac and cheese. God forbid someone make some cornbread or mash an actual potato. We would have a turkey but some dummy forgot the last grocery order covered Thanksgiving. (Ok I’m the dummy that forgot but we don’t need to point fingers) Needless to say things aren’t the same. At least it’s easy to eat healthy through the holiday when you can’t get Mom’s pumpkin pie.

It’s hard having to work on a holiday and even harder to work away from home. We all miss our families and I’m sure my kids wonder why I didn’t get off the big boat when clearly mommy got off her job. It isn’t all bad though. I’m extremely thankful for the job I have. It’s hard being away from my kids and family but I find my work rewarding. I’m thankful that I know even when I’m not home my children are well taken care of. I’m thankful that I can cook my own meal today and not eat the train wreck of dishes prepared by Chef boy this sucks. All I’m trying to say is that even though we can’t eat with our families and loved ones we should all still be thankful that we have them to come home to. That’s what’s important and what really matters.

So everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful that when Christmas comes if I write one of these I’ll be doing it from my house with my kids close by probably bugging the crap out of me to assemble some monstrosity my mother bought them with the intent to drive me insane.