There Goes My Life" (Thoughts on Fatherhood)

It seems to me that one of the things fathers do for their kids is to teach them how to risk. If the stereotypical role for Mothers is “nuturing” (and note that I’m calling this “stereotypical”) then the stereotypical role for Fathers is to push their kids to risk and face their fears.

Take our last Y-Princess Campouts, for example, back in April. On Saturday, we all went on a long hike, back into the woods, where we came to a rock face that, from my lay-perspective, looked like it went straight up the hill. I have to confess, I wasn’t too sure I could climb it, much less that Maria could. And she was pretty scared…pulling on my hand….telling me she didn’t want to…asking if we could just walk back the way we came.

But we both went up the hill together. And at the top, you could see her face beaming with pride.

There is something about that dynamic, about facing a fear and moving through it, that I feel very grateful to be able to teach my daughter. 

Not that I’m very good at actually facing my OWN fears….

My own fears about fatherhood didn’t have to do with worries about being a bad one. Strange as it may sound, I was pretty sure I would be a good, and pretty involved, Father. I had (have) a great Dad, and I was pretty sure I could be a good one too. Hope that doesn’t sound too cocky. But it really is the way I felt about it.

The thing I worried about, and the thing I worry about still I suppose, is the lifelong nature of the commitment. The fact that you are a Father for the rest of your life. I was reminded of that this weekend, as I went to Atlanta, Texas to participate in the wedding of a cousin of mine . There was my cousin, Mark , walking his daughter Brooke, down the aisle. Even in her mid-twenties, he’s still her Dad.

My worry before Maria was born (and I know this may sound selfish to some) was whether fatherhood would kill all my dreams. Would there, could there, still be time for any dreams of my own? Or would I put my own dreams on the shelf for the sake of my daughter?

You put some dreams up on the shelf intentionally and with little hesitation. Take bungie jumping, for example. Sure, I’ve written a song about it, but I’ve actually never really done it myself. Dennise now tells me I am now forbidden from doing it until Maria is out of college. And, believe it or not, I don’t really have a problem with that. This is a good idea. There are many other things that, like today’s “Zit’s” cartoon shows, you put on the shelf without too much angst.

The thing I worried about MOST was whether or not my life would still have time for music. Just about the time Dennise got pregnant, I was really starting to “play out” at open mics and a few gigs. I had dreamed of putting out a CD, but hadn’t yet done it.

Ironically, there was something about knowing I was going to have a kid that made me more, not less, passionate about putting out the CD. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that our having Maria was one of the main motivators for my doing my CD .

What I said to myself then, and what I still say to myself now, is that I think it’s important to show kids not just how to be responsible but also how to follow dreams too. If I can’t follow my own dreams, if I sit on my own hands, in the long run what does THAT teach her?

On the way back from my mission trip to El Salvador earlier this year, I was listening to the in-flight country music station. A Kenny Chesney song came on, called “There Goes My Life.” (if you have iTunes, you can listen to a soundclip here.) Yes, it’s a little cornball, but I found myself crying a big river of tears.

Here’s the lyrics:

There Goes My Life
by Kenny Chesney

“All he could think about was ‘I’m too young for this
Got my whole life ahead, hell, I’m just a kid
How I’m gonna raise one?’

All he could see were his dreams goin’ up in smoke.
So much for ditchin’ this town and hangin’ out on the coast.
Oh well, those plans are long gone.

And he said,
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
Might as well kiss it all good-bye.
There goes my life…….

A couple years of up all night and a few thousand diapers later.
That mistake he thought he made covers up the refrigerator.
Oh yeah……….he loves that little girl.

Momma’s waiting to tuck her in,
As she fumbles up those stairs.
She smiles back at him dragging that teddy bear.
Sleep tight, blue eyes and bouncin’ curls.

He smiles…..
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you, daddy good-night.
There goes my life.

She had that Honda loaded down.
With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes and his American Express.
He checked the oil and slammed the hood, said you’re good to go.
She hugged them both and headed off to the West Coast.

And he cried,
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you.
Baby good-bye.

There goes my life.
There goes my life.
Baby good-bye.

I supposed there’s big part of me that assumed, like the song suggests, that my life would be over once Maria was born. How naive was that!? In some ways, although I didn’t know it, it was just getting started.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone….

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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