The Hypocrite

When I wrote the Dear Soccer Mom post, I had no idea it would illicit such a response which is ironic seeing as how I almost didn’t publish it. Reading the comments, emails and tweets, I wondered why it had resonated so strongly with everyone, and what I concluded was that so many of us live our lives without pretention. We buy in bulk to save money, we drive cars that meet our needs, and we extend courtesy to those around us, all the while teaching our children to abide by the same general principles. So, when someone like Dear Soccer Mom looks down their nose at us, it flies in the face of not just our lifestyle but also of who we are. No one wants to be judged for wearing clothes from a discount store or for the dents in their minivan and there’s an indignity that swells within us—an indignity we have all experienced at some point. It was vindicating to see how many people felt the same as I did, and yet, this vindication was damped by an unexpected feeling of hypocrisy within me.

There is a portion of my life that I rarely, if ever, write about covering the years immediately divorce my divorce. There are several reasons for this, one of which being that I think a majority of people as parents would find it hard to relate to the carefree life I lead as a bachelor. And now with Jon Gosselin running around like the biggest tool in Lowes’ hardware section, I doubt many would sympathize with me either. I wasn’t quite as dumb as him, but there were moments. Partying with The Pussy Cat Dolls and Jenny McCarthy, dating gorgeous women, and generally living like a rock star isn’t going to win me any Father of the Year awards. However, what separated me from Jon was a my self-imposed rule never to engage in anything with consequences that would hurt my parenting responsibilities. Thus, no doing lines of blow off hookers’ asses. Even still, I also bought into this image—the hot car, the pricey lofts, the expensive clothes—and although I may not have been as snotty as Dear Soccer Mom, I based my identity on this extravagant lifestyle in the same manner portrayed in my letter. Of course, in the end we know how that turned out for me.

In a three-month span I met my wife, lost my job, and was forced to become a stay-at-home dad. All the major components of my identity were gone and everything I thought I knew had to be reevaluated. The change turned me into an asshole. I punched the console of the minivan out of the anger of having to trade in my car; I lashed out at my wife for having to move to our apartment in the “projects;” and I blamed everyone else for the fact I was apart from my sons. Time has changed my attitude now, but a part of me wondered if my contempt for Dear Soccer Mom stemmed from a jealousy of her owning the comforts that once made my life easier. But I don’t believe that’s the case.

With me staying home, my wife Ashley’s career has flourished, particularly her freelance work with many of her clients being some of Houston’s most prominent, hip socialites. The night after posting Dear Soccer Mom, we attended a party thrown by this hip group of cliental. Ashley was supposed to be a co-host and I thought it ironic that I now played the part of arm candy when a few years earlier it would have been the other way around. Needless to say, there were few parents at the bash aside from a great single father who is also a child therapist. Other than him, Ashley and I had difficulty connecting with the crowd beyond a superficial level.

We chatted with this young district attorney who thought he was impressing us with the details of a serious child abuse case. “Yeah, someone dropped these kids off in my office first thing in the morning and I had to baby sit them all day. They had had the shit beat out of them.” Of course this was horrifying and more so when he told us about having to drop them off back home with the very people he was prosecuting. “Well, not my problem.” He laughed.

Hey Chucklehead, you and your perfect hair wouldn't feel that way if you were parent.

An abrupt awkwardness set in prompting him to ask for direction to the bathroom. As he walked off, I scanned the room. I used to be a regular part of this kind of scene and now it felt like wearing an old pair of jeans from college that no longer fit. This wasn’t me.

The thought resurfaced in my groggy brain the next morning while making a donut run for the girls. A Coldplay song started to drown out mysterious rattle in the minivan’s engine. “The Hardest Part” off their X&Y album. I play this tune at least once a day much to the chagrin of my musically enlightened wife. I’ve heard it hundreds of time before, without ever hearing its message until this past year. It’s about dealing with change, the kind we have no choice other than to accept it which I find apt with respect to the recent events of my own life. I’m stunned into silence every time it crescendos into the end.

Everything I know is wrong
Everything I do it just comes undone
And everything is torn apart
Oh that’s the hardest part
That’s the hardest part
Yeah, that's the hardest part
That's the hardest part

The words are reminder of how little I knew about myself before becoming a stay-at-home dad, how, no matter what I did to get back to that former identity built on the same things as Dear Soccer Mom, my efforts would just come undone.

With the music playing, I thought of reading the blogs of Matt Haverkamp, Eric Skates, PJ Mullen, Justin Howefitz and other great dads with new children, and they amaze me. When my kids were this age I wasn’t half as attentive as these guys. Even back then my struggle to build a false identity overshadowed the joy I should’ve been taking in my children. It took a divorce to finally make me tune into my boys’ needs, then it took me losing my job to understand who I really was—a father. Pulling away from the Starbucks drive-through, another realization occurred to me, one that brought with it an intense sadness: I hadn’t chose to be a father like some of these other dads; instead, I had to have fatherhood thrust upon me through circumstances that stripped away all those unimportant things I had been trying to hold on to.

After brining home the donuts, I went in the bedroom and cried for twenty minutes—partly out of shame for being so selfish and partly out of gratitude for what I know now.

P.S. Found out Friday that Dear Soccer Mom's daughter is having a birthday party next week to which we are invited. As a present we're getting her kid monogrammed bath towels... just like she did for our stepdaughter's birthday.

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