By MATTHEW NASH
One of my sons celebrated his 16th birthday last month. He received a gift card, a little bit of cash and a check from one of his grandparents as gifts for the special occasion.
A few days later he asked if I would take him to the mall. I assumed that those birthday gifts were burning a hole in his pocket. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but as the two of us were walking through the Green Tree Mall, I wondered if my teenage son felt awkward walking around with his middle-aged father.
I tried to imagine my own father walking around with me at the mall. My dad wasn’t a bad guy when I was growing up. He is just not the kind of guy that would volunteer to drive his teenage son to the mall. I don’t think that makes me a better father, I just enjoy spending a little time with my children individually, which I wish I had more time to do. As for whether my 16-year-old son minded walking through the mall, I don’t think he gave it a seconds thought.
My youngest son got mad at me last summer. For the life of me I can’t remember what it was about, I just remember walking into his room and finding a note taped to his door that read: “Note to self: Don’t make promises with dad for the rest of your life.”
I assume that I offered to do something with him and wasn’t able to live up to my obligation. Sometimes things come up and 11-year-olds don’t always understand.
I try hard not to make promises that I can’t keep with my children, but every once in a while I make plans for the future and we can’t always get everything in. Usually, it revolves around offering to take them to the park or to the pool and it may be too cold or raining that day. Sometimes my children need more time than I can provide, but I always try to do my best.
I think my youngest has forgiven me because this week I agreed to play Monopoly with him. Now I grew up playing a pretty cutthroat style of Monopoly with the kids in my neighborhood and have continued the strategy that worked so well back then.
My son remembers my style of play from the last time we played — how I put houses and hotels on all my properties and he declared it his mission to not allow me to have a “monopoly” — even if it meant spending every last dollar that he had. It was an enjoyable evening with the game finally being called at bedtime without an official winner.
My boys would just as well stay at home and play video games if you gave them a choice; and then there is my daughter. I have seen less and less of her lately because of her never ending social calendar. She became a teenager last December and she hasn’t looked back.
She is busy doing a local version of the television show “American Idol” and she will be performing this weekend. I have missed her this summer while she has been preparing for her show and doing the things that teenage girls do. I was able to secure the day off so I can see her show this weekend. I look forward to some one on one time with just her while my boys are at church camp.
My oldest son lives 1,500 miles away in Layton, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, and I wish I had more opportunity to see him. He attends college at Weber State University there and is enjoying his first year of marriage. Earlier this year he was able to bring his wife here to enjoy our area and we all got the chance to get to know one another better.
I was their tour guide as we traveled Louisville. We visited the zoo, the Falls of the Ohio, Joe Ley Antiques and walked across the Big Four Bridge. I was able to get to know his new wife better after getting to spend a lot of quality time with them while they visited Indiana. I look forward to their next visit or an opportunity to head out west and spend some quality time with my oldest child and my new daughter-in-law.
When I was married last May, all of my children were part of the ceremony. My daughter was a bridesmaid and my three sons were groomsmen, with my oldest serving as my best man.
Later last fall, I was able to return the favor by standing up for my son during their ceremony. My oldest summed it up in a little something he wrote for me for a gift that my wife gave me for an anniversary present.
It read, “It was an honor to have him serve as my best man … I think his love and acceptance of me have earned him that title.”
— Matthew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org