My son and I are driving across the country right now, hitting every skate park, pump track, and downhill MTB facility we can find along the way. There have been some really neat times — watching him hit big jumps at Frisco despite the 9,100-foot elevation and lack of familiarity with the terrain, a couple of warp-speed runs at Winter Park where the adults ahead of him were like terrified deer in the headlights of a Freightliner — and there have been some bad times, like the flat tire I got two miles away from the nearest lift and the crash he had today that initially looked like a broken wrist but is probably just a seriously bruised forearm muscle.
When I think how close I came to never being a father, I get this nauseated chill all the way through my body, the same way I did back in 1993 when I finished a 135-mph freeway blast on my 600 Ninja, came to a stop to get a drink, and realized there was a trail of oil from the head gasket to the middle of the rear tire. Some of it is admittedly the narcissistic high of seeing someone who is very nearly a perfect duplicate of my eleven-year-old self demonstrate mastery of so many different things, from fencing left-handed with an epee to driving a 206cc kart one-handed through a fast corner. The rest of it, however, is just the joy that comes from following (some of) God’s plan in this life and having a family, albeit an ad hoc one. I know that many of my readers are young men who are struggling with a modern society that wants them to be “dog dads” in miserable childless marriages, a society that venerates the empty joys of overpriced food and aimless travel over the true happiness of providing for a real family and continuing the traditions handed down to them by their parents or grandparents.
If I could return to my twenty-first birthday and start again, I’d focus on having the largest family I could support and on showing that family all the love and affection I could possibly express. I believe my brother feels the same way. Between the two of us, we’ve sampled most of the pleasure the prince of this world has to offer, from bespoke tailoring and sub-eight-minute laps of the ‘Ring to playing sold-out shows across Europe and indulging in the kind of antics that are normally prefaced by “Dear Penthouse Letters, I never thought it could happen to me but…” None of that stuff truly lasts.
I know the temptation for my young readers is to “sit poolside”, to disconnect from their responsibilities and just enjoy these final days of the American experiment. I’m asking you to repudiate that temptation. You won’t be a perfect father. God knows I’m not — today I found myself yelling at my son because he was slow to get up after falling six feet onto rocky ground face-first. The job does not require perfection. It requires effort, and involvement. You can do it. Even if your own father didn’t measure up. That doesn’t have to define who you are, or what you accomplish. I believe you can transcend all of that. You won’t make the same mistakes your father made. You can make entirely different ones. Trust me on this.
Here’s something I’ve never written before, but it’s true: Click the jump to find out how you can win a prize.
For Hagerty, I wrote what amounts to a warning label.
I’m also giving away about three G’s worth of guitar and amplifier in a “Hot Rod” contest. Find out more by clicking the link or by suffering through this video with me and the infamous “SANJEEV”: