In last week’s post you got to hear from Grandma Colorado as I started to explore the evolution of our family as we raise a gender nonconforming child, this week it’s Grandpa Colorado’s turn to speak/write. Instead of Q&A style, Grandpa Colorado wanted to write about the things that are on his mind most when he thinks about C.J. and our family.
In Regards to C.J.
There is a truism in the statement “once a parent, always a parent.” If I am to look at the circumstances leading up to becoming a traditional parent, I find many things come into play. Find a partner. Marry her. When the time comes in which you both agree that you are ready for a child and you say “it’s time,” be ready for life’s little disappointments and surprises.
Failure to conceive this month and then the next month. The false pregnancies, the painful miscarriages are devastating and take you to a corner in your mind with yourself. But you find there is a plan…two months, then three, now you tell your parents and your friends as you enter four, now five and watch your wife’s body change and you deal as best you can with her incredibility fascinating and weird situation. But always in the back of your mind as eight and now nine months approach you remember life’s little disappointments and surprises. What if the baby is not healthy? What will we do?
I have always tried to be a good father. There wasn’t a manual handed to me when the unbelievable event occurred, so I decided to use my father as a sort of “reverse barometer.” When parenting my sons, there would be no slapping in the face, no hitting on the buttocks or legs with a stick that they had to cut from a tree in the backyard. No shaking, no screaming, no slugging in the stomach and I would do my best not to have my sons fear me. These were simple rules and I tried my best to uphold them, like I said, there wasn’t a manual.
I watched both my boys grow and experience life. I was — and am still — proud of their academics, sports participation and social skills. Their standards in school might have been a little difficult for them at times because their school was where I earned my living. I taught for 33 years in secondary education and expected their studies and conduct toward teachers and coaches to be more than average at all times; a little pressure, I’m sure, but it was in MY manual.
As my children continued in their formal education they found their soul mates; beautiful young ladies who shared their values, their hopes and their dreams together. The marriages of my sons held such special anticipation. Grandchildren…new boys, new girls, more family, we could hardly wait. My wife and I have been blessed with grandchildren who get older and wiser each year and we are parents of parents. Life is good.
There are times in which I am jealous and it doesn’t speak well of my character, but I strongly feel that if we never feel jealousy we can never experience love. Nevertheless, I am jealous of the relationship my son and his wife (C.J.’s Mom and Dad) have with their children. They are better parents than I ever was, way better. They guide and allow, a concept that I never invoked. Mine was control and approve. The love and respect and the fun that their children have for them gives me pause. Is there some way I can go back?
In my experience as a teacher and managing a class I tried to be aware of behaviors and be willing to correct inappropriate actions from some students directed toward others. I hate bullies. Long before I became 6’ 4” and 240 pounds I was bullied by individuals in grade school and couldn’t get away from them. No complaint to a teacher brought me relief, it is still with me today at age 65… this time, I’m glad I can’t go back, I would be afraid of my actions.
In my classroom my method was simple. When “jocks” or the socially “cool” or the wannabe “thugs” started to get the upper hand on some individual that targeted individual was sent to a counselor who, by prearrangement, kept him/her in the office for ten minutes “just checking their schedule” while I talked to my class and reminded them of life’s little disappointments. Their future child might not look right, maybe not talk or walk right, or just not fit in.
“Worse still, your future child could be on the playground or in the classroom with bullies like YOU! How dare you!” I’d say to my class. In the past, leaders and followers have come to me and apologized for their behavior and have brought the victim into their circle.
Toward the end of my teaching career, I was seeing many examples of this bullying social behavior. I saw more and more children taunted by their “friends;” bullied by individuals that morphed into groups; excluded from athletic groups, social groups and academic groups just because of that groups’ perception of what was correct, cool and normal.
Friedrich Nietzsche the German philosopher once commented that humans are the only animal that commits suicide. It is chilling, but it is true. Our young children listen at times to the wrong people with tragic consequences. Their panic and sense of self worth at times pushes them to a place that is hard to imagine. It breaks my heart that I find myself at times powerless to undo what some people have done. I am saddened in my character in that I am now not recognizing the better angels in peoples’ souls but, instead, look for the evil in mankind instead of the good.
My panic and fear is that I can’t be that teacher or the parent for my grandchildren, but it is tempered by the love and support that is extended by their true parents. We as a society have allowed this community of bullies and evil to flourish and we as a society have the power to stop it through education and voice.