My kids still wanted to hear stories about their Grandpa again. James interestingly enough wanted to know why his grandpa was so mean?

I had not thought about it that way. Some one I respect a couple years ago talked to me about the way I talk to my kids. My pattern of talking to them is highly based on my father's way of talking to me. I speak to them as adults not as toddlers. However I started calling James a sissy for not being tough under certain situations. Things I felt he needed to be tougher about. Such as getting socked by his sister or crying because the store we were at didn't have his favorite ice cream etc.

Grandpa Jim had the best bike.

My Dad and his Chopper

The conversation was enlightening. it was Brief. I am not sure if Sandy mean to affect me so Heavily but she did. I think about it a lot as I fight my instincts. In hindsight Grandpa Jim was concerned about me. He felt I needed to be tougher, and defend myself more aggressively. He had issues growing up related to that. Something I learned far later of course. I can not honestly tell you every-time I had a problem or felt overwhelmed that Grandpa Jim was tough on me, or called me a sissy every-time I cried, but I do know it happened. Many times he suggested I use my anger to fuel my response.

Knowing more now I came to the realization that his obsession with asking me to deal with Bullies using anger and violence, (Once he even offered me $20 to go beat up a bully who was harassing me with a 2x4.)  was a direct response to trying to prevent what happened to him to me. I would like to say it had worked but it didn't. It had the opposite affect. Instead, that need to beat him translated to a fixation that I could never be as tough as him. If I can't... eventually I didn't want to try. It took a really long time to manage that.  To feel worthy of being his son.

There was a teacher when I was in Kindergarten... A story for another time. The short of it is that I was beaten in front of the class not spanked and not punished. Repeatedly hit until I was submissive. It took a while. Most five year olds didn't have the cursing vocabulary or the hatred of authority I did. It was the kind of thing that if it had not happened in 1982 in Nevada and it was now, there would have been a massive lawsuit. My time with bullies for a long time wasn't good either.

Not until high school was I able to confront someone who was attempting to bully me. Later on in my life it got easier though I admit I have no middle ground. I am either willing to handle things with someone and work through issues politely, or Angry Brain deals with it. Meaning my anger gets to speak for me. That part of me doesn't get out as often as he used to. Which while I am grateful for progress, there is still work I will be doing to manage it.

Back to the conversation with Sandy though. My parents are gone, and when they were here they did the best they could do. The parents of my friends have in many ways become surrogates. Walt for example a good friend from Nevada would have been the kind of guy that rode besides Grandpa Jim. My kids look up to him and call him Papa. I am a lucky man to have such people in my life.

We were at a birthday party with my good friends Chris and Michelle's family. Chris is Damage inc. He has a great mother in law named Sandy. When we were in high school Sandy was one of the parents who I was so envious of. I would see Michelle's home and how she handled things at school etc, and I had always thought she had things so good, faith, stability, stable mom and dad. I didn't see everything of course but that was my impression. Grass is greener kind of thing I suppose.

It was at Sandy's house, and we were all talking before dinner about Camille and James. I do not remember the exact thing I said, but it was a negative about James. It was not me being a bully or saying he wasn't good enough, just something along the lines of saying his sister was smarter, or that he was a sissy at times. Then Sandy touched me on the shoulder and said: "James, I know that some times you don't understand certain things about being a parent, and that you are very concerned about that. We all are at the beginning, but let me tell you something I learned. If you call him a sissy or dumb, the best thing is he gets riled. The worst thing is that he believes it, and most kids hearing that come from their hero will believe it..."

Crap...

What you hear from your hero you believe...

Ah hell...

"Daddy, why was Grandpa Jim so mean?"

"Your Grandpa wasn't trying to be mean son. Something I did had I scared him. From his point of view it must have been overwhelming to see his eight year old boy shoot off faster then a car on a bicycle."

Deja Freaking vu. It is not easy, and I still work on it. However after that conversation with Sandy I have lost 496 wrestling matches, 601 races with the Flash, 612 board games, and 42 card games. James is the Flash and gods gift to wrestling. Camille can outsmart me at anything and anytime, and has a roar that shakes the ground. I still teach them how to loose and beat them on occasion, but it isn't the running lesson.

Grandpa Jim wanted me to believe I was worth fighting for. He wanted me to believe there was no one in the world tougher then I was. He was not a perfect man though. This is a good example of what was a good intention that failed and had negative repercussions.

 

Camille and James Giggleing away Grandpa Jim would be so happy to make them smile.

Giggling, mommy is funny.

James and Camille makes friends far easier then I did. They smile more. When I look at my childhood pictures no one is smiling. At least not most of the time. Its such a different story when I look at theirs. I see giggles, I see squinty eyes curled in laughter, and I see joy. I wonder if Grandpa Jim saw that in us. I can't ask unfortunately, but I wonder.

Getting an answer to those questions isn't something I need to chase. What is more important is that I learn from them here and now. I was built by my past. However I am not chained to it. Every one of us is gonna get our asses kicked at some point. Honestly its going to happen multiple times and they don't need me to beat the concept into them.

Now I am more careful, I do tell James to get under control, or to be brave etc. Everything is in a better context though. We talk when hes angry, we talk about why. We talk when hes scared, and I do my best to be patient... (Though I confess my best is not always good enough.)  I am trying to teach them to confront their problems as best I can.

As parents none of us are going to be perfect. We are to listen to the world as the things/people we love teach us. Most of us are not as alone in our struggles as we think. Our minds tend to go into panic and force a kind of mental isolation. Even when we have a great great grandmother who is as wise as it gets, friends who will kidnap you from a hospital if needed, friends who will talk the gospel over chopping a bike frame, Aunts who love us despite distance and time, or Siblings who are still connected to us even from as far away as Colorado and Missouri.

We all still have a village to help us, it takes many forms. Even Grandpa Jim gets to see us here in Nod, just before bed time, when the sun is going down.