On his own

by Wolf Pascoe on March 13, 2012

Used to be, Nora and I would wake up to find Nick snuggling between us.

I remember mornings like that with myself as the child in the middle. No greater joy than diving down to explore among the legs and toes, wriggling like jellyfish under the covers.

Lately Nick heads downstairs by himself, a thing he used to be afraid of. Sometimes he stops by our bedroom for a check-in, but he doesn’t linger.

There’s work to be done. Soft swords wanting repair, books to listen to, lego forts that must be provisioned.

My boy growing up.




A hundred milestones still lie ahead before we cross into the thorny wood of adolescence—first successful sleep over, riding in the front seat of the car, a walk around the block by himself.

But something is different. A willingness to try things. Quicker recovery. Almost, an assurance.

I sit in my study, fingers working the keyboard, long intervals. He rolls in on his scooter.

“Hey, dad, look at this.”

It’s always been dada. Now, sometimes, it’s dad.

He shows me the latest soft sword refinement, flops in a chair and says, “Tell me about the economy.”

We talk over the sorry state of the world.

“TMI,” he says, if I go on a tangent.

Then he’s off, rolling down the hall. I feel a should-I-go-with-him twinge and shrug it away.

Where’s the line between enough and too much?




In all this, a complexity: he’s at an age now when I had no dad.

Up until here, my focus has been on my own inadequacy. How was I to father with no model? With this void inside?

But now that we’re here, I find myself looking to him, comparing him to me, fatherless, at his age.

I grew from here without. He grows from here with. Nothing required of me except to be here. Be his father, here.

And from here, our paths diverge.

To be sure, he has his own work before him, the work of an adopted child. But it’s different from the work I had, work of a fatherless child.




Already, he’s far beyond me. Already at nine I was engulfed in shame, and wandering in the desert that was to be my home country for twenty-five years.

If there is shame in him, I don’t see it. Abandonment, yes, but not shame. Nor the unreasonable fear of the world collapsing at any moment. Nor the sense of futility that was my familiar.

These my burdens, constant as breath, absent from his life.

We are somewhere, he and I, on the mountain, past the easy foothills and rolling meadows, before us the lovely cascades, the bracing air and high alpenglow.

Breathe in deep, I want to say to him, because you can.

I will say it to him, when he needs me to, because I am here to say it.

When I say it to him, I will say it to me.

Fly, baby boy, fly.




Why my son is smarter than me



Banner in the Sky — James Ramsey Ullman’s masterpiece tells the story of a boy trying to follow in his father’s footsteps by climbing the Matterhorn. It was made into the Disney movie, Third Man on the Mountain.



Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

David March 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm

This post got me right here, you know. Jeez, this parenting stuff is not for wimps.

Now that my daughter actually sleeps in her own bed and rarely if at all in mine, I miss her. I am glad she has that independence, but still I miss her.

I watch her sleep sometimes in the morning, like a bird that lets me gaze at its beauty whole before flitting completely out of sight.


Wolf Pascoe March 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Oh, Lord. Hard it is, letting go. Yoda said that.


BigLittleWolf March 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

This is another gorgeous slice of a parent’s life, Wolf. So poignant. Especially as you have now entered new territory relative to your own upbringing.

May it be a very sweet place for both you and your son.


Wolf Pascoe March 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Thanks, BLW. Sweet would be good.


Barbara March 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

You’ve truly captured the hold-on-to/let-go conflict parents experience. If it’s anything like mine, it’s going to be a three steps forward, two steps back kind of thing, always unsure if it’s too little or too much. But I have a feeling you’ll do just fine.


Wolf Pascoe March 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Always unsure. That’s my motto.


jeff skorman March 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

As a parent I get to grow also,I hope it never stops


Wolf Pascoe March 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm



pamela March 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Oh wow Wolf, you got me too. Especially this:

Already at nine I was engulfed in shame, and wandering in the desert that was to be my home country for twenty-five years. If there is shame in him, I don’t see it. Abandonment, yes, but not shame. Nor the unreasonable fear of the world collapsing at any moment. Nor the sense of futility that was my familiar.

This is so beautiful in a few brushstrokes here you describe what it has been (and sometimes still is) like to be me. And our children, such wildly different creatures. Your son is so lucky to have you!!!


Wolf Pascoe March 14, 2012 at 11:22 pm

“Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
and all the time I am being carried on great wings across the sky.”

— Obijwe


Privilege of Parenting March 15, 2012 at 12:27 am

Hugs for you as you step into the realm of giving what you did not get, and in the bargain perhaps becoming what you always needed. Hugs for fellowship and love for loneliness that tickles at every heart; gratitude for your poetic soul-filled words.


Wolf Pascoe March 15, 2012 at 7:21 am

Aw, shucks.


Always Home and Uncool March 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

I’ve been experiencing this transitioning with my own kids for the last few years. It’s heartbreaking and exciting, sometimes at the same time. You captured it perfectly.

Pleasure to meet you at Dad 2.0, Wolf. Keep it up.


Wolf Pascoe March 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Rightbackatcha, Kevin. Thanks for stopping by.


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