Tag Archives: family

Thoughts on Marriage

A few days ago Holden wrote an honest and raw post about the difficulties of marriage and children.  Equally, truthful and perhaps more revealing were the comments. Both of which inspired me to take a shot at articulating my own relationship situation.

My wife and I have been together for over 11 years (married for four of them). We literally grew up together. We attended the same high school and the same University . We shared the same group of friends.  And for the most part been together every day for the last decade. A relationship like this has its own set of nuances we have to work through.

First, there is no mystery between us. For the most part we know everything about each other. Not just philosophically, but we literally know pretty much everything. She knows what I had for lunch yesterday. That can be both good and bad.

For example, we do not enjoy the veil of wonder between us that I witness some of my friends in new relationships enjoy. There is no self-created amazement, and no pretending that the other person is a God. Then again, we know each other better than any two people on earth can know one another – and we still love (and like) each other.

Second, even though my wife and I grew up together  – two people probably couldn’t be more different and have experienced life more differently. My wife is an artist, she feels deeply and shows emotion, she is caring and empathetic. My wife is silly and enjoys vampire movies. My wife will take two hours to hang a photo and will spend two days in an art museum. I hang all of my photos crooked, I workout 4-5 days a week, I’m impatient, business minded, and quick witted. Fills gaps, I guess.

It is strange sharing your life with someone. Because even though we have agreed to share our life – we are still two separate people. Two people with different ambitions, different motives and goals, and different interests. We are two people that live in the same house, agree to have dinner together every night, but in reality have our own lives. Our own lives that belong uniquely to each of us. And even with all of these differences we somehow work them out within the parameters of our own relationship universe.

At some point in a relationship I think people begin to forget this. That our significant others have a life too. But it’s too important to forget. I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. I have my own fair share of problems and struggles. But the one thing that I keep coming back to, that I keep trying to articulate, is that we have to recognize, respect, and nurture the fact that the person we have committed to having a relationship is his/her own person. My wife is a person. Her own person.

I’m not sure why this small fact resonates with me. I think it reminds me that she has her own things going on – internally and externally. It reminds me to be a little more understanding. It reminds me to be patient and to be more supportive. It reminds me to be more compassionate and a better husband.

Head of the Family

Having a kid has forced me to examine a lot of things in my life. I have to think about what I say, how I say it, and the inadvertent message I am sending to my daughter any time I act. It is an constant exercise of restraint, self control, and leadership. It is something I never gave much thought until she was already here.

Starting my own family has also forced me to reflect on my own childhood. The traditions we had, the good times, and the bad. And after a lot of self reflection I’ve come to realize that I am the launching pad for my family. I am the transitional figure who will likely set a new precedence for future generations to follow.

I don’t mean that in an egotistical kind of way, it’s just that I believe I am the first person in my family to recognize and accept this responsibility. My father suffers from addiction, my mother from depression, both from lack of education. Going generations back there is no figure that holds the family together. There are few traditions and no one I would call the “head of the family”.

I want my wife and daughter to have these things. I even want my parents and in-laws to experience these type of things. I picture the entire family sitting around a big dining room table on special occasions. Love, security, and tradition. There was a shortage of those things in my life and I want my family to have it.

So when I’m angry I take pause. When someone upsets me I stop and think. Instead of reacting I reflect on the big picture. Sure, I could probably say something to hurt this person’s feelings, but instead I’ll take it for the team. I’ll be the glue that holds this family together. I’ll swallow the insults, the ignorance, and instead be a leader. I’ll do all these things because I can and there’s no one else to do it. My reward is the result.

Stolen Memories: I used to call this place home.

I grew up about 30 miles outside Atlanta, GA in a small, but booming suburb that is divided by a quickly developing city center and rural farmland. My house was about 10 miles outside the booming city center and sits on 4 acres of lightly wooded property, including a barn and several work-shop buildings. I called this place home for most of my formative years.

oldhouse - Copy

At age 18 left for college which was only 100 miles, but a lifetime from home. Slowly, trips home faded away until I never came back at all. My tree-house, bedroom, and my childhood slowly becoming a distant memory. Later my parents split up, my Mom moved out, my Dad took a Job in rural Alabama, and the house sat unattended for several years. Then my wife and I found out we are having a baby.

It only takes about an hour to get from our home in Atlanta to the house. I still have the key on my key-ring today. I unlocked the deadbolt like I never left. The windows in the back are boarded, the grass and trees cover the porch railing, and the formerly pristine field is covered in small trees and wheat grass.

The house smells old – a slight must of dampness and mildew from a place that hasn’t been lived in or properly maintained for years. There are boxes stacked from floor to ceiling in every room – evidence of my Father’s past hoard. Part of me can barely believe I used to call this place home, but other things haven’t moved an inch since I left.

I open the door to my old room, but there’s not much left that I can recall. Eight box-spring mattresses are stacked in the corner. I wonder to myself where the hell my Dad acquired such things –and why. These types of thoughts are fleeting though – I’m used to this. I open a few boxes until I find one with all of my old books.

Each book is exactly how I left it. Untouched and even in the same order I vaguely remember packing them almost a decade ago. My father’s hoard is strangely comforting in that way – it is almost like a time capsule of possessions stored in a former home turned storage facility, but still full of archived memories.

Five books and two old yearbooks are worth sharing with my daughter. I touch the wall and feel almost sorry for the old house – almost like an old dog you haven’t paid enough attention to for years. I lock up the house and take my stolen memories back home.

Puerto Ricans and Ass Kickings

When I was 7 years old my family and I moved to a neighborhood on the South side of Atlanta. The first two kids I was introduced to were a big black boy who lived across the street named Courtney and a chubby Puerto Rican named Hector. We respected Courtney because he was a foot taller and 50 lbs heavier than the rest of us. We made fun of Hector because he had a big head and always smelled like barbecue sauce.  

My first fight was with Hector. He kicked my ass in front of the entire neighborhood. I remember refusing to fight while the “big kids” urged him to slam me down a nearby hill. He obliged and I tumbled down my neighbors lawn.  After a brief tumble down the rocky ledge the fight was over. My shirt was stretched and stained. My knees and elbows were battered. When the show was over I went home.

When my Mom saw my stained clothes and beaten body she was furious. Her “baby” had been beaten up by a “bully”.  She embarrassed me further by confronting Hector while I stood by her side staring at the ground. Hector held his chin high while my mother cursed him. “Never lay another hand on my child!”  The verbal abuse from the neighborhood boys stood as a constant reminder of the incident. 

The whole experience was terrible, but I vowed to never lose another fight again. My response was to publicly beat the hell out of Hector whenever the opportunity presented itself.  There were many, many opportunities.

That beating and the subsequent retaliatory ass-kickings I handed out taught me a lot about life and how to be tough. But mostly those childhood poundings remind me of how hard it can be to be a kid. 

The funny thing is Hector was my best friend. I cried when we moved. 

Lessons in Fatherhood: Part 3

When I was a kid we struggled to pay the bills, but my Dad was a crafty guy. He refused “real” work, but was king when it came to unorthodox ways to come by a buck. One of those unorthodox ways involved 1000 cassette tapes.

Derek gave my Dad two boxes of cassette tapes – Hip-hop albums. I have no idea why my Dad accepted such a gift, but he has never been one to refuse free stuff. No matter how strange or possibly stolen that “free” stuff might be. So in our damp garage set 1000 cassette tapes for what must have been years.

Then came the day. Sitting in the kitchen one evening our lights went to dark. My Dad peaked out of the window and waited for the technician to leave. Our power bill hadn’t been paid for months, but my Dad was just smart enough to know how to turn our meter back on. This time was different – the power company placed a tamper-proof lock over our power meter. With a note: “Please pay your overdue balance.”

After a day or two without power we had enough. The food in our refrigerator had become sour – and made the house smell like death, the Georgia heat was becoming too much to bear, and showers without hot water was the last straw. My Dad decided to pay. He devised a scheme.

The Scheme

My Mother and I sat in front of local retailers and asked for donations, any donation, in exchange for a cassette tape. Myself, an 8 year old kid and my Mother, a cripple in a wheel chair. We even had t-shirts from an old church youth group we had attended years before. The fact that the cassette tapes were riddled with vulgarities like “The Bitch is Back” written in bold letters on the front – didn’t seem to bother anyone. The donations flowed and our pockets filled.

Sometime people would give $1, sometimes $10. Sometimes the store manager would get suspicious and kick us out of their parking lot for soliciting. No one ever called the cops on a kid and a lady in a wheel chair though. The plan was perfect.

I even got my cut of the cash. Even though I was embarrassed – the thought of helping my parents pay the bills and earning $20 seemed too good to pass up. In reality what my Father had us doing was immoral, sad, and fucked up – but in a lot of ways that was my childhood. Lessons learned in the strangest ways – lessons that will stick with me forever.

My Daughter

Now that I’m having a little girl of my own I wonder how she will learn these same lessons? I wonder how she will learn what it feels like to truly contribute to the family and feel proud of that? I wonder how she will learn to appreciate electricity, paid bills, and hot showers? I wonder if she will ever really appreciate what it feels like to humble yourself, to give up your pride, to help your family. I wish I could grant her that knowledge without that experience – but I don’t think I can.

Read Lessons in Fatherhood: Part 2.

Why Women Earn Less than Men

Do men really earn more than women? Is that because of discrimination? I don’t think so – at least not in the way we think.

For example, my wife is an art teacher and recently accepted a part time job because we are having our first child. In contrast, I was just promoted and have a full time business consultant job. I don’t think this is marketplace discrimination, but rather expectations of gender roles we have accepted.

So is their discrimination in the workplace? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is the gender roles some people are unhappy about.

Lessons in Fatherhood: Part 2

We had all sort of people in and out of my house as a kid. My parents graciously accepted almost every type of person in their home (for better or worse). I remember at a young age my Father associating with men of all races, backgrounds, creeds, and otherwise good or bad morally acceptable characters. All of this had an effect on me. Some good and some bad. But there is no doubt that my experiences did two things:

1. Eliminated naivety
2. Gave me a unique sense of culture

Crazy Stuff

One day I remember clearly. There was a POUNDING on our front door. It was our neighbor begging my dad for my” urine. He had probation and a random urine test – “needed clean piss”. I was reluctant and a little embarrassed, but gave it too him and kept him out of jail – In the end I was obliged to do so – proud even. Looking back I can hardly believe I was ever in such a situation.

Another time I remember a guy opening a -full of drugs on our coffee table. He called me over and explained which bags were “nickels, dimes, and quarter” bags of marijuana – and how much each cost. He even let me smell “how sweet” his best product smelled. I thought it all seemed pretty normal.

Good Stuff

There are good memories too though. I remember my dad stopping to give a rugged looking black man a hand to change his tire. That black man looked at me and said “your daddy’s a good man, son.” I agreed. I remember when I was in middle school and my Father let two “illegals” from Guatemala live in our guest bedroom for almost a year. They were good men and taught me Spanish. ( I think part of my love for Central and South America is directly because of that experience.) He did it just because “they were good men trying to feed their families” and “couldn’t help where they were born”. Those are the lessons in morality and kindness that I think about often.

To this day the lessons I learned via my parents’ associations are second nature to me. For example, I have the uncanny ability to almost instantly judge a man’s character – despite his outward appearance. Also, I remain open minded to various opinions and cultural experiences. And, in general, I find that I am not at all racist (or any other “ist” for that matter). In fact, I love foreigners and learning about their culture. I have no doubt that is due to the type of household I grew up in.

Becoming a Dad

In less than six months I’ll be a Dad too. I hope I can incorporate these lessons into my child’s life – without the negativity. But can you really have these type of lessons without the heartache? Part of me thinks probably not. It’s probably a lot like trying to learn about love from a book. So, I wonder if these are ideas and lessons I will never be able to teach my child?

Read Part 1.