January 16th, 2021

Parenting can be a difficult thing to do

By Lethbridge Herald on February 22, 2020.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
Family Day. When I was sitting at home alone with the dogs early Monday morning, I began reflecting upon this February break — for some — from the drudgery of winter.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was Rio wanting out multiple times during the night, or maybe I’m getting old, but I was feeling a bit melancholy.
I started thinking while sitting in the basement trying to figure out the kid’s new smart TV — which is obviously smarter than me — about being a parent and what it means. As I’ve written before, I had a tough upbringing and basically had to teach myself a lot about life. Learning by trial and error isn’t a great way to learn about parenting; it’s a recipe for failure.
And over the years, I’ve admittedly failed at parenting. We all have to one degree or another and anyone who says otherwise is either a narcissist or a liar. None of us have ever been the perfect parent — at one time or another we’ve been too tough, too lenient, maybe not present physically or emotionally.
We have all messed up at some point in the parenting journey; it’s a reality of life. Humans aren’t perfect, we make mistakes and if we learn and try to correct those mistakes, that makes us better parents. Or at least more honest ones.
When Dylan was born, I wrote a column here in The Herald — an issue that sold out quickly — about my first experiences changing diapers. The column — which is somewhere in a photo album at home — struck a chord with readers who could relate about those first days of parenthood.
I have a really weak stomach and will gag at the thought of things some wouldn’t blink an eye at. The thought of changing diapers was one of them. I didn’t think I had it in me to bend over and endure the sight and stink of a baby’s dirty bum. Then I was reminded that I used to work at a feedlot and would often be covered in “liquid gold” while cleaning pens, branding or just being splattered while sorting cattle with the likes of legendary Lethbridge cattleman John Pahara or the Baker brothers and their dad, whose sister and daughter Maud was a classmate through much of school.
I spent high school literally smelling like you-know-what. Even my car smelled like it, which pretty much explains why we usually bombed Raymond’s main street in friends’ vehicles instead of my 1963 white four-door Pontiac Laurentian. It was either the smell or the fact the only eight-tracks I had in the car were Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” and everything Uriah Heep. I’m thinking it was mostly the smell, though.
So when Dylan was born, I had no actual reason to fear the diaper. And after a few squeamish days, I got over it. The look of a baby’s helpless eyes can do that.
When he was born, I was an athletic guy — I hit the gym regularly, I played slow-pitch in the summer and hockey in the winter, I entered assorted five-km races during the year including the Moonlight Run, not one of which I ever trained for because that would be too much work.
During that winter of 1992, on weekends I would stay up pretty much all night so Dylan’s mom could sleep, rocking Dylan gently and holding him close when he woke to be fed or changed. I would go to hockey early just so I could snooze in the dressing room for a few minutes to recharge before the rest of the team showed up.
The first couple of years of his life I spent a lot of nights in the emergency ward because Dylan was prone to ear infections and I often went to work with maybe two or three hours of sleep.
It was exhausting at the time but I look back at those days with fondness now and on Monday, I was feeling a bit tearful because on Family Day, the house was empty except for Rio and Benson giving me the stare-down which is a sign it’s time for another walk. When Dylan was young, he and I were together often on long weekends, hitting a movie, playing video games or going to a park. (P.S., I still think the South Park game was the best ever created.)
But on Monday I was alone in the silence hours after Dylan had grabbed his coffee and drove off in his Subaru sports car to work at a nursing home where he is a health-care aide.
The dynamic was one that really affected me. Twenty-seven years after I had to control the gag reflex looking at his stained butt and he was off to take care of his elderly clients who I imagine require more care than he did so many years ago.
The kid who once needed dad to take care of him is now the caregiver, one who takes tremendous pride in knowing he is doing something positive for people every day he heads out the door.
And here I was sitting on the couch, feeling sad and trying to figure out how to hook up my Sirius/XM on his TV to get Hair Nation blaring while doing laundry.
Sure I could have just used the app on my phone but there’s still a bit of kid in all of us, even us seniors. And that kid in me wanted to see just how loud that TV could be. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t play. I never did get the satellite radio going — because I didn’t want to bother Dylan — but trust me, even with the hearing aids out, the TV has plenty of volume. Just in case he reads this or hasn’t figured it out himself.
This morning I’m sure Dylan won’t see this because I know we will be passing each other by in the dark. He’ll be getting ready for work and I’ll be taking the dogs out for their first walk of the morning. But if I haven’t told him lately, I hope he knows I’m proud of him. Being a parent isn’t easy, being a good one is even more difficult and trying to hook up satellite radio to a TV is, well, in a league of its own. At least to me. Maybe he can explain it over a brew after work. Really slowly . . . if he wants to come home from work to find Poison or the Bullet Boys blaring from his TV, that is.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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