I took my little Honey Badger to archery this week. Now you might be thinking, “Dude, the Honey Badger don’t care. You think giving her a weapon is a good idea?” Fair point. And when I said that to her, she gave me her Most Interesting Man in the World speech: “Dad, I know I don’t always listen but, when I do, it’s because someone might die. I won’t shoot anybody.” I think that’s as good as it gets.
Anyway, I sign the little monster up, take her to the class and she gets a brief set of instructions, a safety kit (that remains in the plastic bag), and gets fitted for a bow. Now, the woman leading the class is braver than anyone I know: there are 8 kids in the class, one of them is so young I swear he got breast milk on his breath, another is going through Ritalin withdrawal, and this chick is outfitting them with live weapons. But that’s beside the point: kids get their bows and arrows, learn some whistle commands and they set balloons on the targets. Teacher blows the whistle and my girl becomes Katniss! POW! Balloon pops on the first shot. Lil Man is right behind her: he can’t form a complete sentence but he is Hawkeye on the range.
Still, I’m proud of my girl and on the way home, she asks me why I didn’t sign up to take the class too. Aside from it being for kids, I say that I just really wanted her to have the opportunity to learn stuff I never did. To do the things I never had a chance to. I tell her I’m trying to raise adventurers and explorers, that I never want her to be scared of life. Then she says, “Well, now why don’t you do the things you always wanted to? You can do them now, can’t you?”
You can do them now. What can I say to that? Nothing, right? So I said the only thing I could: “You know, you’re right.”
I hate when they’re right.
Yesterday, I decided to hang out with The Boy. He’s been a bundle of bad decisions and bad grades and is stuck in a cycle of fuckitness (yes, it is a real word—ask any other parent). Still, for all my frustrations at his 13-year-old bullshit, I can’t be all bad cop. There has to be a safe place for him to land, even when he’s making it harder for himself.
I called myself spending quality time. He called it trying to school me on the basketball court. My body called it a bad idea. Folks, I am a whopping 5’6”, 5’7” in my Nikes. The Boy is already taller than me and plays on local teams, during recess, and when he’s on punishment. Which means he gets to play a lot. The last time I played basketball, I was trying to seduce my wife by shooting free throws in the Magic Johnson game at Dave & Busters. Before that, I needed to pass so I could graduate. From high school.
I’m huffing and puffing, chasing his young ass across the concrete, feeling my heart pounding in my chest and getting that “I’m too hot, I think I might throw up, geez I feel light-headed” feeling. I call a time out. Again. He looks at me while I’m panting and says, “You need to workout more. Maybe twice a week at the Y.” I wanted to cuss him out, tell him his young, no ball-hair-having-ass can shut the hell up but I can’t even breathe and am wishing I brought my inhaler to the freaking court. Perhaps the kid is right.
Which brings me to my last conversation. You may recall, I have this job that I call my Day Job Dragon. I tussle with it, embrace it, curse at it, but continue to show up every damn day because I really like heat and health insurance. One of the things on my List of Things To Do At 40 is to get a promotion. I just want to be recognized for what I do. What I hadn’t really realized is that a promotion, an advancement to do the same thing, was a sort of professional insanity. Yeah, recognition is great but if it’s really just the same thing with more stress and more money, is it worth it? What excited me about the idea of a promotion was that it represented a change.
That’s what I really needed. A change.
So, on Friday, I slayed my dragon. I quit my job. Oh I still have that nagging addiction to food, shelter, heat and lights. And my kids constantly let me know they’re hungry. But how I meet those needs changes. Because The Boy told me there are some things I should do to take care of me. Because a little girl told me I can do the things I want to do now. Because it’s taken me 40 years to figure out what’s important.
Now things get fun…