Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Until You Pee on an Electric Fence

I love being a dad. In fact, whenever I talk to men who are expecting their first child, I always tell them that fatherhood is the most exhausting fun they’ll ever have. It’s a lot like a rollercoaster. Daddyness is a wild ride but one you’d gladly pay to take. The ups take you higher than the Dali Lama’s backyard. The lows drop you somewhere between your septic tank and hell’s roof. Still, as a dad, you’re inexplicably drawn to the experience.

To say that being a dad is challenging is a bit like saying that an inflamed hemorrhoid is inconvenient—it’s somewhat of an understatement. I recall a story my father once told me about his older brother, my Uncle Jack. My dad and uncle grew up in Hampstead, North Carolina. It’s a little town in Pender County, just north of Wilmington. When my father was growing up, there wasn’t much more to Hampstead than pig farms, peanuts, Protestant churches, and the fish house where my grandfather worked. One day, Uncle Jack saw an old hog lying in the mud just on the other side of a wire fence. It was then that he got an idea that, to a twelve-year-old boy looking to amuse his friends, must have seemed brilliant—he decided he was going to pee on that hog. With friends laughing and egging him on, my uncle undid his pants, took aim, and let it fly. He peed right through an opening in the fence and hit that hog right in the snout.

As my uncle and his pals laughed it up at that poor pig’s expense, they failed to realize something very important. My uncle was about to learn, in a very painful way, that he had chosen to harass a hog lounging on the other side of an electric fence. According to my father, when his brother’s stream hit that fence, my Uncle Jack unleashed musical notes rivaled only by the Bee Gees. “To the best of my knowledge,” Pop told me, “it was the only time your uncle every did a back-flip.” To this day, my Uncle Jack can’t be in the same room with a plate of barbecue without flinching to protect his private parts and breaking into a verse of “Stay’n Alive.”

I share this story because being a dad is kind of like peeing on an electric fence. A guy who’s done it can try to describe the sensation, but until you feel your own testicles doing the electric slide inside your jockey shorts, you just can’t fathom the experience. Kids change your life in ways you never could have imagined. You can try to tell an expectant father what it will be like, but it is something that just has to be experienced. It’s a different world. No matter how much I try to explain to my children the meaning of the word schedule or the importance of daddy’s routine, they just don’t seem to get it. They can’t understand the concept of patience or an adult’s need for a good night’s sleep. They are, after all, just kids.

And yet, there is no greater joy in my life than being a father to my three beautiful kids. I love playing ball or tag in the backyard; jumping with them on the trampoline; dancing with my daughter at the palace ball; or helping my son hit the shot that wins the national championship. For all the challenges, tests of patience, spilt glasses of milk, and late nights of holding a screaming child as I pace, half-asleep, back and forth in my underwear, I realize that I am right where I want to be. God has truly blessed me.

This blog is, by no means, intended to be the writings of an expert. Its purpose is not to provide deep answers to life’s questions about fatherhood. Rather, it’s intended to encourage readers that they are not the only ones whose family jewels occassionally get zapped by electricity. We all pee on electric fences from time to time. Having a baby and becoming a dad is a challenging, joyful, and often hilarious journey for any man who embarks upon it. My readers should not absorb the things they read here like patients in a therapist office. Rather, they should take them for what they are. Confessions, thoughts, comments, and, at times, cries for help from someone like them: an average dad just trying to raise his kids without accidentally doing something that costs them thousands of dollars in therapy when they get older.

1 comment:

  1. and so are we to our Heavenly Father, three year olds peeing on fences and wondering why it felt so funny and when's the next ice cream