|Scene from "Meatballs" (1979)|
Sometimes, I wonder how I got here (new dad advocate, blogger, pain in the ass of parenting magazines everywhere), and then I remember the story my mom likes to tell about my first experience at summer camp when I was 7. And when I say “tell,” I mean to EVERYBODY…
It was the early 80’s. I was young, I was a handful, and, well, since the rest of my siblings were going off to camp for the summer, my stepfather saw sending me along as his best opportunity to have my mom to himself for a few months. So he packed my bags, personally saw me to the bus and bid me adieu with a heartfelt handshake (my mom cried tears of joy from the car). Six kids off to camp for two whole months- every parents dream and a 7-year-old’s nightmare.
Looking back, even my Mom will agree, it's probably not the best idea to send a kid with a big mouth, a need for negative attention, and a lot of practice at annoying his older siblings to a place where there is little to no supervision. But, even though she feared the worst, she always said she knew my older siblings would look out for me- she was wrong.
|Photo from "Canteen Boy" Sketch, SNL|
Now, if you think 7 is too young to send a child to camp, consider this: I was the youngest kid in the entire camp, by 3 years. And if you think my older brother enjoyed having me for a cabin mate- he did not. So what’s a kid with no family support (my other siblings were all off doing their own thing), limited adult supervision, and a penchant for getting in to trouble to do? Have fun, of course, the only way I knew how.
I guess I have a little Marty McFly in me because I’ve never been one to back down from a fight. I’m not talking physical battles, more warfare of the mind. I’ve been known to wear down an opponent or two in my life time. I like Davey and Goliath moments and I’ve never been a fan of the small being threatened by the strong. But I am what I am, and it only took me a week to find myself in a heap of trouble. I guess I shouldn't have said what I said to that older (7 years older), stronger punk who thought he could push me around on the basketball court, but I was just standing up for myself. Is it my fault he couldn't take a joke…about his mother?
I'm sure if I went back in time, I might have held my tongue, as when he named the time and the place where he promised to quote “rearrange my molecules” I probably should have had the presence of mind to call home and be airlifted out of there, but I didn’t. Instead, I waited in my cabin counting down the hour, hoping he’d forget about me. He didn’t.
|"Hey, Kid? You insulted my Mama!"|
Instead, he showed up at my door, not a minute later than he said, asking for the little fat kid that insulted his mama’s virtue. I assumed he meant me, but wasn’t quite sure until he described me and what he wanted to do to me in great detail. He was asked to wait at the door by my cabin mate, hoping to give me a moment to escape. But, my time had come. My moment of reckoning had arrived. I accepted my fate. But something came over me as I walked toward that door, like a lightning bolt that ran up my back and directly into my brain.
I arrived at the door with a smile on my face, knowing exactly what to do.
“Hi!” I said. “Do I know you?”
“You better.” He said. “I’m the guy who’s going to end your life.”
“Oh…” I said, “You’re here for my brother- my TWIN brother.”
“Twin?” He said, confused. “I’ve seen you around. You don’t have a twin?”
“Sure I do,” I said. “He’s the one you’re here to beat up. Hold on, I’ll get him.”
I closed the door in his face, the adrenaline coursing through my body as I rushed back to my bunk and changed in to another shirt and pants; my bunk mates not quite sure what I was up to. I went back to the door.
“My brother said you’re here to beat me up?” I said.
“Wait, you’re the same kid?” He questioned. “This is weird.”
“Well, I’m ready for you to beat me up now… where do you want to do it?”
“Forget it kid. I don’t beat up on (expletive deleted). Just go back inside.”
“Are you sure?” I said. “I’m ready to be “pummeled.””
He started backing away.
“Maybe some other time, kid. I’m going to give you a warning for now.”
And he was gone.
Now, I don’t want to brag or anything, but I quickly became the talk of the camp. No one would mess with me. I scared the crap out of that kid, but not without scarring some other people as well. So much so that my counsellor pulled my mother aside and asked her if I had been “evaluated” by a professional. "You know..." he said, “for his Psychophrenia?”
|"Why do all my kids have morons for counselors?"|
My mother just had to know.
“What did you do now?” She said, taking me aside.
So, I told her. And, when she finished laughing (and laughing), she simply gave me a big kiss and said: “well, self-reliance is born out of self-preservation I guess.” So, in essence, I’m a self-taught survivor.
And, that's exactly how I feel about fatherhood. The truth is sooner or later every new dad has to face the unknown. Someone won't always be there to have your back (your wife, your mom, a nurse, a doula, etc.) so it’s better to just open that door and face your fears. You'll figure it out. And, with a little ingenuity, and a second persona to have your back (that of a strong, stoic, all-knowing “dad”) who knows, you might even impress those who didn't think you could handle it
Disclaimer: The author of this post took some dramatic licence with this post, because, let's face it, most people can't remember 30 years ago in the past that clearly unless they're a member of Mensa, which clearly he is not.