Cats in the Cradle – Dash The Bomber – Medium
Quietly contemplating the horror of losing the bond I so deeply share with my child, I peer into the starry skies above the Pacific Ocean. Marveling in the beauty of the cosmos while deliberating about my own mortality, thoughts of him fill my mind.
After all of my military experience, nothing else in this world terrifies my soul more than the fear of being hated by my son. This fear arose due to my continuous required absence and not due to a lack of effort on my part, but still I feel that I have somehow broken that connection between father and child.
As a sailor, I have an obligation to my country, which demands my time and absence from his life for prolonged periods of time. As a father, I owe my time and affection to him. Constantly, I’m torn between my responsibilities to both family and occupation. Struggling to find a healthy balance between work/family life that satisfies everyone, I run myself ragged.
I often feel that I might be pushing myself to the limit of exhaustion in order to keep my son happy during the times I am present, overcompensating for my absence. I understand this might not be healthy, but for the sake of Leonardo it’s worth the endeavor, and gives my ongoing effort meaning and purpose.
Because my profession has a high mortality rate, I simply can’t afford to let time slide without doing my best for him, and even if this wasn’t so, what lonely life would my life be without the excitement and joy he brings me.
To earn his forgiveness for my inability to simply quit the job and dedicate my life to being a father, I make sure to teach him what life has taught me through conversations, playground time, video games and adventures.
Yet, deep down I know his innocent heart does indeed forgive my absence… but, I’m not quite so forgiving of myself.
After all, no amount of toys or souvenirs will ever restore the time I spent away from him and alone in a steel warship floating amidst the ocean.
Being nary, but a forgotten memory in his heart.
I’m left thinking of all the recitals, milestones, discoveries, and life events I’ve missed and the ones yet to happen.
Dreaming every night of my return to a son who will be a completely different individual by the time I return to home port.
Contemplatively looking at the horizon, I spend my days at sea wondering what he’s been accomplishing during the passing months.
Has he been playing tag with friends, perhaps enjoying the latest video games, or even reading new stories or books?
Rambunctiously yelling in excitement as he explores a new aspect of life with the sort of glee that only a child can muster? Perhaps, he’s quietly dreaming of my return while quietly sleeping in his bed?
I couldn’t say… but, what is certain is that his absence leaves a void in my heart, a blank space that is filled with my regret and sorrow. That is so until the day I finally come back to him.
In the meantime, however, I’m often reminded by my superiors that our children will come to appreciate the sacrifice we are making when they’re older… that they’re simply too young to comprehend our obligation to the country.
But, does that knowledge make a difference to me? Time after all, is a commodity I can never regain regardless of my affluence. Furthermore, if I don’t show my child he’s worthy of my time, what entitles me to his as he grows older?
Am I entitled to think that providing him with a decent life is enough to fill the blank space left by my absence?
I don’t believe it for a second. I refuse to believe that anything can excuse me from missing out on his adventures, for being an absentee parent when he needs me the most.
Carrying that knowledge with me makes me wonder how I could possibly look at him in the eyes when he becomes a young man, and callously ask him for his time? I simply could not bear to be so bold.
For that reason, I wholeheartedly refuse to treat my son as a secondary priority in my life.
I choose to place his needs above mine for both of our sakes. Spending my days playing hide-and-seek with all the kids in the community who are missing their dads, reading him bedtime stories,and studying for my qualifications together is how I choose to spend most of our evenings.
At night, we’ll converse about the latest videos he saw online, and once he’s asleep, I often find myself wondering if he’ll ever consider my efforts enough to make up for the time spent away from him…
However, then I remember that my behavior is rather normal.
As a parent I want to do what’s best for my child and I’m no different to any other good father or mother out doing the same for their kids.
I want to provide him with the best opportunities that life has to offer. Even if sometimes it feels like I don’t get enough time for myself…
Because I want my child to know that I love him more than anything in this world, and I’ll gladly give up anything to strengthen our bond.
But, more than anything… to avoid losing my connection with him. The special link we share as “adventure pals” and, more importantly, as a family.
Being a father has been the greatest joy in my life. It’s been the greatest gift that life has given me and I share that happiness with my son.
I can find no greater pride in this world than being an exemplary parent to my son.
My only hope is that he realizes that my sacrifices had nothing to do with my duty as a sailor, but of my responsibilities as a father to the one person I loved above all others in this world… him.