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Wednesday, March 11, 2015



My oldest son was a difficult child.  He wasn’t a bad boy, he never got into any real trouble, he didn’t break things or backtalk.  He was a difficult child.  He never got into trouble at school; I never got a phone call about his behavior.  Growing up my oldest son was a good kid, he had a good sense of humor, he was a polite kid, he was well liked, but he was a difficult child. 

He was a difficult child because he always seemed to know what he wanted, and he would not give up until he got it.  If you wanted him to do something he didn’t want to do, it was like pulling teeth to get him to do it.  Even in his early grades, his twenty minute homework assignments took hours and often were not completed.  I remember getting angry because he kept erasing perfectly acceptable first grade handwriting, and doing it over and over again.

He was not a good student.

My oldest son was a good athlete, but he did not excel at team sports.  It was as if he was afraid to let his teammates down and sometimes was afraid to try.  Individual sports, skiing, skateboard, tricks on a bike, he always would impress me with his ability.  In an individual event he could practice and practice without fear of letting anyone down but himself.  Eventually with all the practice, he would excel. 

I used to joke that my oldest son was unable to operate a lawn mower, but he could ride a bike around the block on one wheel.

Suffice to say, my oldest son, Mike, was a difficult child.

Mike was not a “look at what I can do” kind of kid.

When my oldest son graduated from high school and turned 19 he was not ready for college.  He did not want to go to college.  He wanted to go to Colorado.  He went to Colorado.  He went with minimal help from his father.  I don’t know much of his life for the next 10 years.  I married a woman who did not want me to know my own children.  She was a bitch for that, and I was an ass for not telling her to fuck off when it came to my children.

About a year or two after Mike went west, I moved to another house.  While I was packing, I found a vase in Mike’s room.  It was a very cool vase, but I wondered what Mike was doing with a vase.  Inside the vase I found a certificate.  It was a certificate for first place in a county high school art competition.

My first thought was, “That little prick, he does something that I can be really proud of him and he never told anyone.”

Who knew he had any artistic tendency.

My oldest son did go to college after many years of being a Colorado ski bum and I don’t know what else.  He went without any help from his dad.  He graduated with a degree in Graphic Arts and after several years struggling in a very difficult profession is now doing quite well working with a well known ad agency.

I have since learned that people with an artistic bent tend to be perfectionists.  It explains why Mike took so long to do homework even in his early grades. If it was not neat enough, if it was not perfect, he did not want to hand it in. 

Mike is now living on the west coast.  He has visited east a few times and I do keep up with him more these days. Neither of us is very good with phone calls or letters; there is Facebook.

Several years after I found his award winning vase, it slipped through my fingers and broke into several large pieces.  I have never felt so bad about breaking anything in my life.  It may as well have been a Ming Dynasty artifact.

I feared the vase was symbolic of my relationship with my oldest son.

It is funny the things that mean the most to you in life, especially as you get older.

Several weeks ago after a significant snow storm I got a rare phone call from Mike.  He wanted to know how I shoveled my driveway and walk. 

“Do you shovel or have a snow blower?”

“Mexicans.” I answered in a truthful albeit very un-PC way. “The condo association takes care of all that stuff.”

“That’s good. I was just wondering, because shoveling snow can be very dangerous at your age.”

“No, I’m good…Thanks!”

That call and his simple concern made  me realize, though I wish I had not dropped it, sometimes a vase is just a vase.


  1. Kids are surprising. And some less predictable than others.

  2. It is always refreshing to read the "success" stories of "difficult" kids since I seem to have had two myself. Glad to hear Mike is doing well and deep down cares for his dad!!


  3. this was very real and raw from the heart, cranky. bless you both for continuing to keep that connection.

  4. I think there are lots of kids, and adults, too, like that. Just because we can't always see in advance where they are going, they're still going. Many go far, and do well. Congrats, dad. :)

  5. This is an interesting detail from your life, and I respect you for opening up about it. It's almost too obvious to say, but kids are hard to raise and there's no sure fire way to do it. Our son has never been to an art museum in spite of my repeated attempts to share my passion for art with him. Instead, he's a master mechanic. Interesting since I couldn't care less about cars, but when it's your kid, you take an interest. I bet you were a good dad and maybe you shouldn't beat yourself up too much. Your son obviously cares about you.

  6. You can't possibly know how much it means to me to read this today - today is a very significant day for me and I was feeling, I don't know ... pretty low to be honest - this post really touched me and gave me back a little faith. Thank you Joe x

  7. "They say it's easy to get your mind around introspection."

  8. Very nice post Joe. If only kids came with a manual eh? With a nice little troubleshooting guide in the back... "If your kid is doing 'this' need to respond like 'this', he'll be happy and you'll be happy, move on."
    Sounds like you did an excellent job without one!!!

  9. First, that wife was a huge B for not wanting you to have a relationship with your kids. Not right at all.

    Yes, kids will do what they want to do for the most part. I'm glad he turned out okay. Better than okay actually.

    I've issues with my son. He's created them, but they are off limits to me. He's made that clear. So, that being said, he's three steps away from being homeless. It's heartbreaking to watch.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  10. "I married a woman who did not want me to know my own children. She was a bitch for that, and I was an ass for not telling her to fuck off when it came to my children."

    Damn that hindsight! At least you got out of there. Maybe not soon enough, but you still got out. I'm sure Karma will take care of her.

    I'm glad you were able to reconnect with your son. That's what counts.

  11. It seems you are growing together once again. I think you should take a trip out there, spend a few days with him, spend some time touring the area and invite him to your place.

  12. If only his school teachers were able to find out how good he was in arts, and looked into possibilities of giving him a chance in a magnet school or a school for gifted children even, they would have further enhanced his capacity as an artist. I hope that he is able to do something wonderful with his talent.

    A child is always concerned about parents. God Bless him.

  13. Of our 3 children, the one who was most difficult while growing up is now our most caring, helpful & loving!!

  14. You did the best you could with him with the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual strength and knowledge you had at the time, and even if he wouldn't put it that way now, he knows it, and loves you.

  15. I hope he reads this post. It shows how much you do care and how much his caring means to you. You both seem to hold your feelings close to the vest.

  16. I was hoping that during the call, you mentioned the terrible accident with his vase, and he said, "Oh, I didn't make that. I just stored my certificate in there." Just so I wouldn't feel so sad about the vase.

    He loves you so much that he called to chat about the weather!

  17. Difficult he may have been but he is a good kid (man).

  18. There are manuals for raising kids, but they all leave gaps. Being a parent is not for wimps :)

  19. This was Mike's comment via Facebook

    Mike Hagy- That wasn't a vase. That was my favorite bong!!!

  20. Well at least you know he cares enough about you to ask how you get your snow shoveled.

  21. "He went with minimal help from his father."

    Good for him. Independent. That was a good post, Joe H.