THE FLIGHT PLAN OF FATHERHOOD (OR THINGS THEY NEVER TOLD YOU ON THE GROUND)


I mailed my father his Father’s Day card today and it got me to thinking about fatherhood. You see, I’ve experienced it from both sides now.

My father had the task of raising me while working endlessly as an independent carpet installer. This meant that there were no such things as paid vacations. Only unpaid gaps in between jobs, which especially would dry up in the winter months just when heating oil was needed. My mother somehow made whatever we did have last long enough until more more jobs and money could be had.
Growing up, my father was a very blue-collar guy (a fact I am very proud of, by the way) and yet he never made me feel less-than-manly for liking acting and plays and books. But, he did have to learn not to “ask” if I’d like to work with him on a carpet job if he needed a helper. If I was asked, it implied “free will,” and I would turn him down. He’d get mad and then I’d get mad and, in the end, I’d have to work the job with him. What I learned was this: 1) some things in life are truly voluntary while other things are merely coated with the appearance of choice… and 2) when your father asks you for your help, take the opportunity to be with him and learn from him! Time flows faster than you think when you’re young, and you can never go back.
Now, for the past twenty years, I have been the father. I moved my wife and our two sons from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles so that I could live my dream. I don’t mean to say that my sons were “along for the ride.” No way; they turned out to BE THE RIDE!
Laughter and tears, pride and fears…
The first thing you learn about fatherhood is that there is no manual. There are no instructions and “your results will vary.” I compare raising kids to flying an airplane. Take off is thrilling and the gradual ascent during clear weather is overwhelmingly beautiful. As the flight continues, you find that your initial flight plan must be revised. In fact, you will spent most of the trip constantly adjusting your course and altitude. Sometimes you avoid the storms… and sometimes you have to fly through them. And during some of those storms (especially during adolescence) the turbulence is so severe you wonder if you can land this puppy in one piece. You may even have a fleeting thought of bailing out in mid-flight. But, like any good pilot, you knew the risks before takeoff!
You tell your passengers (your children) to buckle up, review the safety instructions and remind them not to smoke in the lavatory! And, with the aid of Air Traffic Control (your wife, who can guide you as you fly on instruments-only through the dense fog wherein ALL frame of reference is lost), you pilot the plane safely to its destination. You wish your passengers “good luck” as they disembark for their own adventures.
If you’ve done it right and

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the kids get off the plane in one piece… and you and Air Traffic Control are still are friendly terms, take the time to celebrate!

I’m just saying…