This blog post isn’t for you, Knucks. You’re excused from this one. And it’s not for those who are regular readers, or were kind enough to subscribe. I’ll see all you folks next week. This post is for those of you who stumbled on my blog by accident.
Specifically, it’s for those of you who found “In Defense of My Son Turning Out To Be a Total Loser.”
I published that post about four months ago, and in that four months it’s become my third most-viewed post. Part of the reason for that, I imagine, is in the attention-grabbing title. “In Defense of My Son Turning Out To Be a Total Loser” was written as a light-hearted fluff piece, “bemoaning” the fact that my kid has picked up some of my geekish ways. The title was meant to be an eye-catching bit of hyperbole. All in good fun. The Knucklehead himself told me he laughed when he saw the title of that post.
But WordPress provides we bloggers with a daily box score on our blogs. We get to see how many views a blog post racks up, how many viewers check out our blogs, and even from which countries our work is read. It tells us how many views came from Facebook, from Twitter, from search engines like Google (none of this, by the way, is connected. I have no way of knowing which post the person from Germany looked at, or which post Facebook took a viewer to.).
Sometimes, you get to see the search terms that lead to your blog. Usually, you get “Search term encrypted”. But sometimes they come through. And for the past four months, almost every day, these are the search terms that have led people to this blog:
my son is a loser
how did my kid get to be a loser
And the one I saw two weeks ago that broke my heart and led to this post:
what do I do with my loser son
I can’t even imagine the sorrow, the ache, the desperation and sense of futility that would bring a parent to type those words into the Google search field. Probably your boy isn’t a loser, but maybe he is. Maybe that’s your fault. Maybe it’s not. But whatever you were looking for, you deserve better than what you found when you came to my blog. You surely weren’t looking for some middle-class dude poking fun at his “first-world” problems with his only child. If you brought yourself to initiate that search, you must have felt at the end of your rope, and what you got was my little self-deprecating satire. If you said anything out loud while reading, it was probably, “Thanks for nothing, asshole.”
I don’t like leaving you with that. Even if you got to “In Defense…” by accident, I feel responsible. And if you made it to that essay, your search probably took you to this one. So for what it’s worth, knowing nothing of your situation, being no kind of expert, here’s what I have to say:
I like to think of myself as a good dad. I’ve certainly worked hard to be one, and it’s what I always felt my boy deserved. But I also have no illusion that I’m also a lucky dad. The Knucklehead was always an easy-going kid, even as a baby. I joke to people that that was part of the reason he was an only child: “I know I got lucky, so there was no way I was going to tempt fate by rolling those dice again.” There’s some truth there. I could focus all my parenting on one kid. There were many challenges raising him, but I was able to find the resources to help that maybe you can’t. I was lucky enough to spend my college years working at a superb summer camp with a visionary director and dedicated staff who taught me more about parenting than my own folks ever did. I had help. Help that maybe you haven’t had access to.
So if you’re defining your kid as a loser and I’m not, maybe that doesn’t say anything about either of our parenting. Maybe it says a lot more about circumstances. It could be that you’re punishing yourself over something out of your control.
Or, possibly, you actually are a shitty parent. Maybe you deserve to feel guilty. Maybe this is your doing. Or maybe your kid isn’t a sweet soul at heart, but instead, deep down, really is a despicable or worthless human being. I don’t know, I can’t know. I don’t like to believe that’s the case, but sometimes we have to assume a worst-case scenario.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. My advice to you, whether you’re innocent or guilty as hell, is the same:
Start over. Today.
Begin your new life as a parent today. Everything you always wanted to do, start doing right now. Don’t wait for permission; you don’t need it. Don’t wait for acceptance; you don’t need that, either. No one will notice right away; they don’t need to. If you’ve been a terrible dad, no one will believe you’ve had a change of heart, so don’t wait for their approval. Just take the first step on the long road to proving your commitment. If you’ve done all you can and your kid won’t listen, don’t give up. Right now your kid doesn’t care what you have to say. He doesn’t need to. What he’ll remember, years from now, is not your words, but your attention.
What you’re about to do will require months or years of patience and understanding. If you have a history to atone for, it’s right that you will be doubted. If your kid has a long history of not listening, he won’t know how to start now. Today, tomorrow, next week, you will feel like you’re banging your head against a wall. Bang away. This is necessary right now if there is to be change. But you can’t get to the place you want to be if you keep putting off the start of the journey.
Worst case scenario: the relationship gets no better than it is now. But I suspect it can’t get worse. And at least you’ll know you went down swinging. That’s not nothing.
Get the help you and your son need. You were able to find me by Googling, so you can find real help that way, too. You know what you need. It’s probably the thing you’re most afraid to face. Face it, get the hardest part out of the way. The way you feel right now, putting those awful words into an internet search engine, I promise you is a worse feeling than getting in the mud with your challenges.
Get up. Get up and get at it. Don’t wait for forgiveness. Don’t wait for absolution. Don’t wait for repentance. Don’t wait for understanding. Don’t wait for an opening. Don’t wait until after the holidays, or until the new year. Don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t wait for the time to be right. Don’t wait for patience. Don’t wait for understanding. Don’t wait for things to calm down. Don’t wait for a sign. Whatever you’re waiting for, it’s not coming. This is all the jump you’re going to get. It’s all you need.
You have a long and frustrating road ahead of you with lots of obstacles and backsliding, and no guarantee of success. That’s the only road you have. Every day you wait is another day lost. Another day your boy is pushed away from you.
Get up. Get up today.