When I was a kid, I was afraid of having bad dreams. I heard somewhere that dreams come from a person’s subconscious. So I figured, if I think about something, it will be in my consciousness and not in my subconscious. If it is not in my subconscious, I wouldn’t dream about it. So I thought about scary things before bed. I don’t remember if it worked or not. Maybe I blocked it out.
I can identify the stages of my life. I went from childhood (abbreviated) to adolescence (extended) to adulthood in the usual way. Some phases of life are cumulative. I was, and still am, a son (happily) and a sibling. Some phases are serial. I was a husband, not a husband, now a husband (happily). I was a stepfather, then not a stepfather now a stepfather again. Some phases are enduring: being a grandfather (aka Zayde) to two grandchildren since day one.
One of the stages I missed was being a father. A lot of people I know who have had children, say that I “dodged a bullet”, not having had to put up with the sorrows, trials and tribulations of children and the long-term angst that can ensue even after the children become adults. I understand and accept that. What else can I do? Kvetching gets really tiresome both for the kvetcher and kvetchee.
I thought that I would have been a really good father, but I’ve read some pretty horrendous accounts of absent, abusive and otherwise monstrous fathers, so I’m thankful I never had a chance to be one of them.
I think what I missed was the opportunity to be tough as well as kind; to set up rules and guidelines and be firm yet flexible with them. Of course, I missed the joys of parenting as well; watching and helping the children blossom and grow, being a hero at times but most of all being cherished as a caring parent who did his best, even though he made mistakes.
Perhaps a factor that contributed to failure to attain fatherhood is my reaction to my older brother who is severely handicapped by autism and profound retardation. Mike has also never spoken. I saw the never-ending struggles of my parents and experienced first-hand, the frustrations and failures to make any kind of meaningful contact with my brother. Mike required continuous attention; there was no happy ending in sight, even though my parents tried every alternative available at the time.
It is easy to see the gap between the idealized lives of Leave It To Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet portrayed in the social medium of my time (1950s, 1960s television) and the childhood years I experienced.
I wasn’t comfortable with either life alternative, I suppose. Did I apply my childish premise of purposely thinking of something scary to avoid nightmares, to my dreams of fatherhood? I do not characterize my childhood as nightmarish, but for argument’s sake, suppose it was. Since I lived in my childhood, I was conscious of it. Hence, I avoided having bad dreams about family life. In my case, not only did I avoid nightmares, I had rosy dreams of fatherhood. Leave It To Beaver must have leached through after all.
I guess my childish psychology of dreams does work. After all, it explains my dreams of fatherhood. There must be another reason I did not become a father. I suppose the psychology of dreaming is different than the psychology of implementing.