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The Current State of Fatherhood Daydreams

Brothers in Strum (Corazon), 2020

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on gold leaf, 16" x 20"

Oh, the things we wish for our children. Outside of the normal realm of good health, financial success, settling down with a loving spouse and presenting us with beautiful grandchildren, it’s the other little delusions that I think about as my boys are on the precipice of adulthood. With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’d thought share a few of those fantasies with you.

When the boys were young, school aged, my expectations and my goals for them were pretty generic. I wanted them to be good students, have lots of friends and participate in lots of extra-curricular activities. In short, I wanted them to be generally happy little people. Well, things never go as we planned. That’s not saying anything any parent doesn’t already know. Fatherhood is a long slow motion trapeze act usually done without a net. I was constantly flipping from one swing to another parenting first my littles, then on to teenagers, then to the swing of young adults.

Brothers in Strum II, 2021

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on gold leaf, 16" x 20"

Now, despite many awkward mishandlings and fatherly tirades and meltdowns over the years my sons tell me they love me every time they leave my sight, so I must have gotten ahold of those swings. Just to be clear, I’m not bragging or patting myself on the back, just stating that for all the triumphs and defeats, I must have done something right. Yes, they do things I’m not proud of but they do more things that I am proud of.

So as a dad, my daydreams have morphed from all the potential of what my sons could be, to shaping them into better defined people that they actually already are. In another words, meeting them at who they are, not who I want them to be. As basic as that is to state, it’s a very difficult application. A Father’s presence in a child’s life is a tether to their dreams. Conversely, a father’s absence in a child’s life is a deep hole that takes half a lifetime to climb out of. The boys have friends whose parents who still project their expectations onto them, most of which are completely unreasonable. I see some of my kid’s friends with all kinds of anxiety issues and floating adrift in the stream of early adulthood. Again, I’m not casting any dispersions, my kids aren’t perfect, they’re anxious about things and ripe with indecision, but they can talk openly and honestly about what’s going on in their head. Now, the teeth have been taken out of all my stern warnings and cautionary tales and life experiences, because after all, they know more than I do. The arrogance of youth, a gift of diminishing returns. Yet, through all the cross examinations and often loud rants, they will talk to me about what their thinking and feeling.

Emile, 2018

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"

So having spelled all that out, let me share what I’ve been daydreaming about for my sons these days. Both of my boys still live at home, which at 22 and 19 is not a strange occurrence these days. And while our little house is cramped for two young men, they’re in no hurry to leave the nest. I’d like to think that’s a testament to our parenting, and to a lesser degree my cooking. As a dad, I’ve tried to stress a well thought out transition from our home to their future home. I like to dream that they’ll save enough and with a little help will buy a house, preferably in the neighborhood, preferably across the street. Not that I wish any ill will to that older fellow, he’s been one of our more favorite neighbors, but he is not long for this world and the sad day will come when the for sale sign goes on his front lawn.

I fantasize about grandchildren running across the street (don’t worry, we live on a dead end) to our house when they know Grandma is baking and helping each other with yard work and the like. Really there are lots of older folks in the neighborhood, and the demographic is starting to shift to millennials who are starting families of their own. I know this is a stretch to have both son’s living just streets away from us, but it is plausible. For the most part, both boys are surprisingly fiscally responsible. My oldest saved enough to help finance his own education. My youngest just saved $10,000 in under 18 months to buy himself a car. Yet, this whole scenario is just that, a daydream. There are so many variables that could alter the situation, like their choices in spouses or careers. I can only hope that whoever those mystery guests are, that they are THE ONES.

Let’s be clear, while I daydream about this, I’m in no hurry for any of it. Afterall, dreams rarely marry plans, they just have a weird long-distance relationship.

I daydream about my boys finding their purpose in the world, the thing that gives their lives meaning. The conversations at holiday dinners would be monopolized by the work that they are both doing and how tough it is to balance that with being parents. I dream of the epiphany that they’ll have over a dram of scotch of just how hard that is.

Xavier, 2020

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 20"

I daydream of my boys staying as close as they are now. That one day their kids will be equally close, and cousins will be best friends.

This is probably the same dreams of any dad of young men everywhere. To know you have guided your babies through the crucible of adolescence to be predominately well-adjusted human beings, with minimal emotional baggage.

I’m not disillusioned, I know what the future holds, lots of twists and turns, detours and downed bridges. The reality is there’ll be a few painful breakups, bad late-night decisions, shit jobs and some crappy apartment choices in my boys’ futures before they reach the promise land. The frustrating part is, as a dad, I have to watch from the sidelines. I can send in the formations and the plays, but in the end, they are the only ones that can execute with or without success. I daydream that they’ll still look toward that sideline for guidance when they’re not sure which play to run.

I don’t hang my hat on much these days. In many ways I feel like I fell short on many facets of my life. Most days I feel defeated by 1pm. The one banner I can still fly is my Fatherhood colors, a tattered but true flag. It’s been such an arduous journey and I’m only half way through it. From the second I looked into the eyes of each my sons in the delivery room to my oldest son suggesting we go get a beer at some local dive, the time has whizzed by. Like being on a train looking out the window, the people and places pass by in a slow reel, but the reality is that train is moving 90 miles an hour.

I’m not sure how many dads are going to read this, and that’s probably not important. But this is for all the dads out there. The countless hours of doubt, frustration, joy and pride. The stupid Dad jokes, monster trucks when you have a throbbing headache, coaching little league games in the rain, watching them receive their high school diploma, here’s to all of it.

Here’s to what come’s next…college graduations and landing dream jobs; weddings, buying houses, and maybe starting businesses; joyful family vacations and the birth of those afore mentioned grandchildren. All of these things and more, tempered with inescapable heartache, disappointment and loss. Next Sunday, Fathers’ Day, I’ll table all those daydreams in lieu of a road trip to Cooperstown, cold beers, a picnic and a catch by the lake. Like I said, I must be doing something right.

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