A Father’s Identity: I Don’t Know Who I Am Without My Kids

Edwin Lyngar’s been a father since he was 20 years old. When all of his kids are eventually grown and out of the house, he wonders who he’ll be without them.

I’ve had a child under the age of 6 since I was 20 years old, in essence for my entire adult life. As my older kids have grown, I’ve added new ones to the mix. Even though I started too young, I could never regret it. My oldest is 19, and I cannot imagine life without him.

I never intended to throw all my money, resources, and youth into parenting. It just happened. Even with my oldest now out of the house, we still have four at home. People have asked me if I’m Mormon (until I utter one sentence). I usually tell them that I just like sex and I’m careless with birth control. The real reason I have so many is that I’m on my second family, and I still have custody of the children from my first. When I married my wife, Joy, we set out to build the big blended family we have now.     

As I reflect on Father’s day this Sunday, I have to admit that I have no idea who I am without kids at home, and the admission makes me feel like a loser. If I didn’t have so many fathering obligations, I don’t know what I’d do with myself all day. As an adult, I’ve never had the chance to find out.

I’m very aware of the biggest impact of being a father on my social life. I short my adult friendships badly. I’m a social guy, but there is just no time to build new friendships, let alone nurture the old ones. My priorities are simple: family first, followed by work and, rounding out the top three is writing (stuff like this) and my sanity. With all my time tied up, I have become an unresponsive and flakey type of friend.

I also don’t put in the time in for “career” that I might otherwise. In fact, I’ve deliberately kicked my own career ambitions in the nuts a time or two because I refuse to pay the real cost of chasing the almighty dollar. I think this is a pleasant side effect of my correct priorities. Sadly, I regret giving short shrift to a few civic groups to which I used to be a more active (sorry, Reno Freethinkers).

I don’t make excuses for my priorities, but rather, I’ve made a conscious decision. The biggest gift a dad can give his kids (in my opinion) is to just be there. Sure, we do stuff together, play, work in the garden, and swim in the kiddie pool, but I think the most important part of being a dad is being present. When my kids look over, I’m sitting there. I’m scratching myself or I’m swearing like a motherfucker or failing to repair/clean/organize something in the house. I see them before bed every night with just a few exceptions. At the same time, I berate myself often for not being a better father. That’s the flipside; the curse of caring about how you parent is that you never feel good enough. I don’t.

At the same time that I view fathering as important, I despise, utterly, the marketing of parenthood. Everyone has seen the commercials:

“Single mom saves money with this one trick.” 

“Stay at home dad learns to save money on power bill with this one easy step.” 

These are of the lowest of lowbrow ads, and I find them insulting. I also wonder who the hell would click on such a thing or use the products associated. Although I identify with fatherhood, I do not want that to be my entire identity. I am a lover, a kung fu fighter, a writer, and an amateur juggler. People who are parents only are intolerable drips.

Since I’ve had my sack snipped (pardon), there’s little chance I’ll have another kid. My youngest is 4, and time is blowing past me at a furious clip. Soon she will be 6 and then 7 and 10. I am in no hurry for her (or any of them) to grow up. I’m OK at this moment, on this one particular father’s day. When I finish my job of raising toddlers and preschoolers, I’ll have to learn to be an adult again. I’ll have to rediscover how to be a friend, and I won’t have an excuse to skip the gym. But like I said, there’s no hurry.

Edwin Lyngar is a writer and author living in Reno, Nevada. He graduated from Antioch University in 2010 with his MFA in creative writing and also holds an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Bellingham Review and Ontoligica. He blogs about parenting, family life, and writing at www.edwinlyngar.com and is in the process of finding a home for his first book, a memoir titled Guy Parts.

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