Eat Your Young

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Most animals are set in their ways, particularly when it comes to child rearing. For some, the father leaves the mother after mating, long before the babies ever arrive. For many, the father would kill his own children out of fear they may one day rise up and replace him. In other cases, dad sticks around, sometimes exclusively, even as mom disappears. And yet other cases show both parents leaving their children to fend for themselves right from birth.

Humans are not like the animal kingdom, of course. We have the capability for deep reasoning, and have created a society in the Western world which leaves us with ample time to spend thinking things over. Whereas animals are all instinct and less industrialized nations spend most of their time just surviving, we can take the time to ponder.

For some human males in this modernized society though, the desire to be a drifter is as strong as our need for food, as controlling of our actions as instincts in a wild animal, as drink is for a drunk. I don’t know that all men have this urge, but even if its not innate in us all, the percentage of young American men it surges through is surely the majority. To explore, find adventure, to go out and hunt for food, women and success is in our DNA. Since cavemen and up through the Wild West, this has been our lot. Only in the past 70 years or so have we become more likely to be in a box all day than out struggling with new territory.

But struggle still we do. Everyone of us who feels this way, we look at our lives and ponder.

We ponder whether we should give into the urge, skip out on college and just roam. Societal pressure holds these urges at bay, or perhaps just the opinion we have all of our lives for such pursuits. Then we land jobs and ponder whether we should quit them and get moving. Rent payments keep us showing up for work each day. Then children come, mortgages, responsibilities of all types which we manufacture for ourselves, and we begin to let the urge to migrate subside, disappear into a drawer long closed and pushed to the back of our minds. With humans, it seems, it’s better to forget the dreams we were too busy or frightened to go after than to deal with the frustration and sadness we feel when we’ve realized we have failed at living up to the future our younger versions imagined.

For many of us, we’d be happy to discard our jobs, though, sell our houses, quit it all and just start roaming. A clarity arrived at some age, be it 18 or 48, and we see how easy it would be to do just that.

But for those of us who have children, up and ditching society doesn’t always seem like such a clear choice. Unlike animals, we don’t seem to have a singular approach to our male role. Some men just up and leave their families behind, alone to fend for themselves. Others stay, living out their role as head of a household and secretly becoming disillusioned with it all.

Though society favors the latter, neither are truly in the right. A man who does “the right thing” by staying with his family is not necessarily doing anyone a favor. An unhappy father teaches unhappiness to his children as much as he teaches them to swing a bat or drive a car.

For those of us with the rambling affliction who figure out a way to make a motion of our lives and bring the kids along with us, I say happy Father’s Day to you! I know it’s not nearly the official date, but you are my heroes, and you deserve recognition for taking the sometimes harder route in life of pursuing your aspirations while not abandoning your families, and I wager that for most, the harder choice makes for the better life in the long run.

Here’s to everyone who’s deathbed scene is one of contentment on a life looked back on in satisfaction, here’s to showing the next generation how it’s done.