Hello again, fellow Dads! Or people with Dads! Or people married to Dads! Or friends of a Dad, or someone who has met a Dad at some point or another...
This week we’re doing another obscure song by a famous artist. But no fear! This song is really pretty great. You may be familiar with Ben Folds, of the Ben Folds 5 fame, and even if you’re not I think you’ll like this song.
I first discovered Ben Folds in college when rummaging through stacks and stacks of CDs at a used record store (RIP Rasputins on Hesperian!). I came across some sort of test printing that had this cool doodle of a piano on the cover, and Ben Folds immediately became one of my favorite artists.
Ben Folds specializes in super poppy piano music, but within that super poppy piano music, he’s throwing in biting sarcastic lyrics, he’s recording weird sounds, he’s pounding open handed on the piano keys...honestly, I wish I could have caught them live when they toured in their early days, famously lugging a full grand piano to the bars and underground clubs they were playing in and just beating the living hell out of the poor thing.
This week we’re looking at a more toned down, quieter, Ben Folds song, “Still Fighting It”. It’s a song that I discovered a little after my son was born, and it just captured so much of what I felt as a new Dad (and feel as a Dad now).
This will be the first in our blog from the perspective of a Dad, and the last, for a bit, that is about/from the perspective of a good Dad. We’ll be looking at some crumby Dads in the next few blogs, and I’m even going to try and tackle this whole Dad thing from the perspective of a daughter, so........we’ll see if I pull that one off or not.
I’m also going to break the format with how I’m writing this one as well. The last two had a lot going on in the lyrics, and while I could have addressed the song from several different angles I just found the one thing that stuck out to me and ran with it. For this one, we’ll just go through the lyrics and pull out some good moments, and maybe, if you’re a sap like I was when I first heard this song, you’ll find yourself a little teary when you listen to it.
So, let's go!
Good morning son/I am a bird/wearing a brown polyester shirt
First things first, I’m glad this opening line is figurative because if it were literal that would be a terrifying thing to wake up to.
Everybody knows it hurts to grow up/but everybody does, so weird to be back here/and let me tell you what/the years go on and we’re still fighting...we’re still fighting it
The chorus to this song didn’t connect with me when I first heard it. I think because at the time my kids were really little and everything was pretty cool. They watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they would climb all over us, they yelled a lot about everything... things were ok! But as time has gone on, man, growing up is harder than I remembered.
There’s just stuff that I forgot is part of being a kid...figuring out heartbreak over friendships at school, family issues that you’re too young to understand, illness in young bodies, slowly realizing that things just don’t always work out the way you’d hope, stupid piles of homework that hangs over your head...I mean, being a kid and growing up has these unique challenges that just...
...It hurts. Ben said it right. In a lot of ways, it hurts to grow up.
And it is weird to be back here with them. Just watching them trying to figure life out and trying to offer guidance. And I wish...man, I wish I could just magically turn into a kid and stay with them and maybe even go to school with them, and, I don’t know, punch other kids on the playground for them or something (And then, be like, “Don’t fight, violence is never the answer”).
And man, my kids are still in elementary school. I can’t imagine what it will be like when they’re in High School or even watching your kids go through heartbreak as adults.
As much as I want to, I can’t hover over them and make life perfect. What I can do is listen to them, talk to them and try to guide them but ultimately, they have to make their own choices, and ultimately, at some points in their lives they’ll be hurt and disappointed and that’s life, and honestly, that just sucks.
It was pain/sunny days and rain/I knew you’d feel the same things
So...it hurts to grow up. But it’s good times too, right? I really think that’s why it’s okay to make traditions like Saturday morning pancakes, or to have family Mario Kart time. Because if life is sunny days and rain, I want to do my best to guide them through the rainy days, and offset that as much as possible with the sunny days, right?
You’ll try and try/and one day/you’ll fly/away, from me
Look, I don’t know who decided it was a good idea for kids to grow up and leave you but that’s stupid.
No...okay, I know it’s for the best. But I can still kind of hate it in my heart, right? A little bit?
I do honestly believe that the best thing is to teach them to live without their parents doing everything for them, but man...this whole thing about kids leaving us, that’s a special kind of impending heartbreak.
So my goal, my big hope, is that I can convince them to still want to hang out with me as adults.
Good morning son/maybe twenty years from now/we can both sit down and have a few beers...
Man, I love this line. It’s always stuck with me. Because I can’t wait! I honestly can’t wait until I can sit down with my kids over some beers and just talk.
And we’re kind of getting there now. I’ve been taking them to Starbucks for years, and in the past they were so young they’d just devour their cake pops in, like, three bites and then look at me like, “What are we still doing here?” They didn’t really want to savor an espresso and talk politics.
It’s gotten a little better now that they’re a little older. I can sit with them and they’ll tell me about video games they’re playing or a book they’re reading and that’s a lot of fun...but the idea of them wanting to hang out with me and talk when they’re adults, that just seems like the greatest thing ever.
And you’re so much like me/and I’m sorry
The other day my son saw a soda cup in a Wendy’s parking lot and he immediately kicked it into bushes.
“Little Joe!” My wife yelled at him, ‘your Dad always does that!”
Then the other day when I knocked on my daughters door to see if she was ready for school she yelled through it, “You’ll never take me alive!”
“You’re so weird!” I yelled back.
So...my kids are little versions of me. Which is to say, they’re weird people. And, in some ways that’s good, because hopefully I can understand them and help them avoid the same pitfalls and mistakes I’ve made, right? On the other hand...man, I certainly fall into a lot of pits and make a lot of mistakes and I don’t want that for them.
So, my goal is to be there for them, and listen to them, and hopefully I can help guide them away from bad decisions I’ve made (for instance, don’t convince your friend you can drive when you can’t and then immediately crash their car, that’s a bad decision), and help them make good decisions, (order two bacon McDoubles at McDonalds and you’ll get a good amount of delicious food for under $5, that’s a good decision). I’m hoping that a good relationship with them now can equal happy kids that grow into happy adults and hopefully, they’ll want to hang out with me when we’re older.
So...hell. This ended up being way more melancholy than I anticipated!
But that’s okay, sometimes you need a song to remind you of the “sunny days and rain”. So, for my family, today has been a good day, and I’m about to end writing this and then challenge my kids to some video games (Which is to say I’m going to kick my sons ass on Street Fighter II).
Let’s do this! Let's reach out to our kids this week (or you, kids, reach out to your Dads or father figures). If we’ve got a good situation to be grateful for let’s enjoy it. Next week we’ll be looking at what is the most requested song for this blog, and what is possibly the most famous song about a terrible Dad I know of.
See you next week