You Never Know Until You Know-
When we put our son to bed each night, one of us sits in the room, usually plays a bit of classical music to soothe the savage beast. He always makes sure the same friends are there with him when he crawls into bed, Mr. Bunny, puppy dog and Pajama Monkey. Not before long, Tino is deep in slumber cute as a button. I usually hang back in the room for these special moments to savor the quiet, calm and intensely sweet look of serenity on his face. I understand a little more about my own father because of this journey. I know now why he did the things he did, why he said the things he said, and what he meant by all the sound advice he had for me. I only realize it now that I too am a father.
Growing up, I often thought he was overly cautions, too strict, too much of a perfectionist, that his expectations were too high. I remember thinking he was too old to understand my youthful perspective or too old-fashioned to understand my artful ways. I even remember thinking he was “too Chinese”. I find it difficult accepting that my son too may feel some of these things about me in the not so distant future. Is this a perspective I can change now? Is it possible to bridge the generation gap along the way? Can I just tell him and explain to him, “Son I love you and only want what is best for you.” Will he understand, or does history dictate that Tino will not realize the intensity of my love and soundness of my advice until long after I am gone or he has a son of his own? Sigh.
I remember my first (and last) public tantrum. It was at a shopping center in Hong Kong. I remember really long escalators and I had wandered away from my father. Out of breath, frantic and a few heart palpitations later, he found me. I was surprised by his intensity and fury. Under normal circumstances I might have gotten the toy, but since I had disobeyed him, left his side, and nearly caused him heart failure – I guess he was not in the mood to get me a toy. He said NO. And I let loose, kicking and screaming demanding, all the things that children of Asian ancestry are never to do- especially in public. I will never forget the look of shame and dishonor that swept across his face and would manifest in a giant wallop across my backside, pants down around my ankle! It was the first and last time my father ever raised a hand at me. It shook me to my core, I had never seen this side of him. We both pulled it together and left that mall. I’m trying to remember if that was the last time he took me to Hong Kong?
I’ll be curious to see how I handle my first public tantrum? Of course I am mentally prepared for a “time out” I know spankings are out of the question, times are different now. But I am sure all the emotions that run high will be much the same. We went to the dentist yesterday for Tino’s second checkup. At two years of age he has all his teeth including his molars. He chatted with people in the waiting room, played with the toys that were there, walked into the office on his own and even climbed up onto the dentist chair eagerly. The dentist scrapped a little and buffed his pearly whites. He was just thrilled to get a new toothbrush and a plush beanie baby as his reward. He managed very well and he made his daddies very proud.
I know it won’t always be this way, so for now we have to relish the moments when life is easy and Tino makes it easy. I dread the first public tantrum. Its one of those looming moments that you have been witness to yourself, and you think “oh my that poor parent!” It just brings me full circle to the expectations we have as fathers, the intensity of our love for our children and the knowing that they may never really realize this intense love until long after they’ve grown.