A wee Father’s Day essay… that just might touch on the meaning of life.
Time to earn some Father’s Day cred
“But I don’t want to go to the recital,” said our 9-year-old son Connor. “It makes me uncomfortable.”
As a private violin teacher, Jodie holds studio-wide violin recitals three times a year. As we came up to 2021’s spring recital, we could also do something we hadn’t done since the COVID pandemic began in 2020: Hold an in-person recital.
Recitals have always been a bit tricky for Connor. He’s been playing violin since he was three and a half. He also practices every day, and has been doing so for over 1,500 daily practices in a row. He’s good at doing things consistently, whether that’s working on a Lego project for hours on end, or asking Anthony to play their daily couple of innings of baseball.
Sitting through recitals though? He’s not always very keen on that. And we get it: Lots of kids find it challenging to sit through an hour’s recital.
And the morning of the recital, as he told Anthony about not wanting to go to the recital (and not really hearing that it would be outside, with pizza after), Anthony wasn’t exactly thrilled about hearing this. He and Connor got some space. Anthony knew that they needed to get to a good place though. There was still much ahead in the day, from those daily innings of baseball, to the recital, to some downtime later.
After a few minutes, Anthony went over to the couch where Connor was sitting, and said, “May I tell you something?”
Connor nodded, and Anthony sat down.
Dads have to admit hard things sometimes
Anthony took a deep breath. He knew he was taking a chance revealing this to Connor, but it also just seemed like the right thing to do as a dad.
“Baseball makes me very uncomfortable.”
Connor’s face scrunched up. “Why does it make you uncomfortable?”
Anthony cocked his head toward his left shoulder. “I’ve never liked baseball. I’m not much of a sports person, and playing it with you, even though we do it every day, isn’t easy for me.”
“Why do you play it with me though?”
Anthony smiled. “Even though baseball makes me uncomfortable, I play it with you because we have so much fun. All the laughs, all the good moments we have together playing, that’s more important to me. I can deal with feeling a little uncomfortable because we’re doing something that bonds us as father and son.”
There was a little silence. Connor was taking in what Anthony was saying, and then Anthony said something else.
Can uncomfortable be worthwhile?
“There are a lot of things that aren’t comfortable, but they’re worthwhile,” he said, and smiled. “Like being a parent. Being a parent can have a lot of uncomfortable moments. There are things parents worry about, or have to deal with. There are conversations that can be difficult, but they’re necessary. But do you know why your mom and I love being parents?”
“Because you like me and Aster?”
“Because having the two of you has far more joy and happiness, and it’s worth all the uncomfortable,” said Anthony. “Lots of things can be uncomfortable, but worthwhile. Mom and me starting and running our businesses can be uncomfortable, but they give us the lives we want and help us have lots of time with you and your sister.”
“What about traveling? Can that be uncomfortable too?”
“You love traveling though.”
“Sure. But when I went to India, for example, it’s intense. It’s so hot, it’s like a wet oven.”
“Why do people live there?”
“Because it’s also amazing. Very old cultures, incredible people, beautiful places. It’s a complex place. Traveling there isn’t always comfortable, but it’s also brought some of the most cherished memories of my life.”
A little more silence. Then Anthony said, “Uncomfortable is going to happen. Pain, sorrow, hurt, discomfort, all those things are part of life too. We endure them, but we can also do something with them. The thing about uncomfortable, is you often have to be willing to be uncomfortable, in order to find joy.”
He paused. Connor stared at him, as if saying it was okay to go on.
The juice and the glass
“Think of it this way,” said Anthony. “Imagine every happy thing you treasure—play dates with your best friend, adventures with your sister, reading a book all morning—now think of them as… as juice. The thing about the juice, is you need something to drink it from. Now, take all the pain, and sorrow, and discomfort you’ve felt in your life. An argument with your sister, falling off your bike, getting in trouble with me or mom, trying something new that you were excited to do but nervous about. Those things also help us appreciate the good stuff. The discomfort, the pain, the sad, those things become the glass that we pour the juice into. The difficult stuff helps us appreciate the good stuff.”
“So it’s okay if I don’t like the recital?”
“It’s okay not to like it. But we go because you and your sister work hard on your violin practice, and you and your hard work deserve to be appreciated. The other people there? They’ll show you that appreciation. In return, we show them our appreciation for their hard work too. So I ask just two things of you: Bring a book. And keep an open mind. Can you do that?”
Connor nodded. And he gave Anthony a hug.
A Father’s Day thought: Sometimes the path to joy means wandering the uncomfortable
Life can be so uncomfortable. Parenting. Travel. Business. (And, if you’re like Anthony, baseball.) But through discomfort, we can find our way to joy. Excitement. New things and people we love.
It’s the sort of thing Anthony’s keeping in mind this Father’s Day. Every day, really. The sort of thing he hopes both Connor and Aster make a part of themselves. The sort of thing he hopes he can do a good job remembering too.
And now, to head outside and play some baseball with Connor. Because, sure, Anthony grimaces a bit inside. But his smile is real.