There is dancing, and there is parenting, and when a father and adult son find themselves living under one roof, it becomes a daily transition between those two.
During the divorce, there was a thought the three of us would go our three separate ways. But common sense dictated my son stay and finish college and so I kept the condo and became simultaneously his parent, his landlord, his benefactor, and his judge and jury.
It’s humanly impossible, and we managed to maintain this peaceful balance exactly ten days. This, from two Mensans.
A father and son start with the ultimate unbalanced power relationship. A father can spank, browbeat, humiliate, grant or deny privileges, confine his son as he sees fit. He can choose to approve friends and visitors, diet and appearance, and set demands for schooling or social activities. Some fathers are hands on, some are hands off. Some are wise, some are crazy. And every son ever born just plays the cards they were dealt.
But as you come of age, that transition has you choose your own friends, your own clothes and style. There is an expectation to “come and go as you please”. Oh dear.
Roommates share responsibilities whether that is vacuuming up spills (or just weekly maintenance), keeping the sink clean, or emptying the kitchen garbage bin when its full. The “Don’t park your car in the driveway if you get home after me because I leave first” sort of thing. But roommates resolve these issues from a peer-to-peer relationship. If one of them is a screamer, or a drama queen, or a guilt monster it quickly becomes evident. They can choose to change their relationship, work to change the crazy response, or one can move out (often telling “bad roommate” stories for years).
But with a father & son, no such luck. There is still the historic dynamic of “If you’re not home by 11 you’re grounded”, and “dad, can I have that new Nintendo, jimmy got one”. It silly. It’s actually pathetic. But it floats in the air, every minute of every day, like fear at a college final. And a dozen exercises over a dozen weeks can’t seem to cut those cables that have built up, laid down tiny wire by tiny wire, rolled up into solid structures so insurmountable that even the brute force of good intentions and conscious decisions cant overcome it at times.
And we were warned.
So today we try again. Partners and roommates one-third the time. Landlord & tenant yet patron & protegé one-third the time. And loving father and caring son the rest. Whats the definition of insanity? Well at least the road is paved with good intentions.