This I Believe

Charles - Jacksonville, Florida
Entered on January 31, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65

I always thought of myself as a good man. However, as I finish my 60th year I look back and see how lost I had been all along. I divorced twice, walking away without good reason from two toddler daughters. Both have done well in spite of me.

Marriage number three came next. This time I was blessed with another beautiful daughter already weaned and everything. I was no prize for the newest daughter as I tried to be the policeman at home and at work. She really just needed a dad.

As all this was happening my son came along. He was all boy fighting, biting, and always moving in high gear. As well as an awesome soccer and hockey player who had an instinct for scoring and being in the right places. I never missed a practice or game.

While I was reveling in his athletics he was becoming more of a handful for his mother. Before I realized what had happened I was into fifteen years of midnight shifts where I stayed up and took him to school, picked him up after school, did the homework and dropped him off with his mother on my way to work.

The runaway dad was giving this boy more attention than his three sisters got combined. It quickly became evident that he was not trying in school. On homework that required reading a few paragraphs and then answering questions exactly matching the reading, he could not come up with the answer. I even hammered him for not trying and told him he was stupid.

My best friend has since become very proficient with his school work through the dedication of a public school teacher who has shown me what a real teacher is. He still has many serious issues to deal with to fit in as an adult. I finally found the strength on my last child to do what a father should do if he brings a child into the world.

Because of this boy, I took parenting classes three kids too late and I enrolled in a Mental Health Counseling Graduate program at sixty. I can not fix all my errors and misdeeds, but I am learning what I can to ease young men like him into the world and to keep parents like me focused on the right issues and to lobby for mental health programs.

Now we know who was stupid. Good parents find much earlier than sixty that if you have children you need God, a good parenting program, and an even greater sense of humor. It was no one else’s fault how things went. I can not undo my mistakes, but I can use the remainder of my time helping other parents make good choices on the first try.

I believe that all of the times that I thought were so awful have brought me to a point where I now am one with God and myself. You could not have convinced me of that ten years ago. There will still be trials and crisis as my son moves into adulthood, but I have truly been blessed by this young man, and I will never abandon him or lose hope for his success.