Happy Father’s Day!
I have spent the last hour or so looking at pictures on Facebook and Twitter. Adorable children sitting next to their fathers with homemade cards and big smiles on this special day. I hate them.
OK, I don’t really hate them, but it makes me wonder where I went wrong. While Kodak families in Norman Rockwell Town were posting on social media, I was opening my cards and drinking my coffee. As I opened my cards, my wife made breakfast and Eli shrieked on the couch about how he wasn’t hungry and he didn’t want to break away from SpongeBob long enough to watch me open a card. Charlie was face down on the kitchen table sobbing because the bacon, cheddar and chive pancakes my wife was making had onions in them. It didn’t console him at all that they had chive, not onions in them. In other words, it was a pretty normal morning.
I had to smile while I watched the happenings this morning. Kids don’t always buy in when we want them to. They won’t always pose for pictures when we want them to or color in the lines. We have very good children, which means they only sporadically behave exactly the way we want them to. If it were any other Sunday morning they would probably behave similarly, so I didn’t take it personally.
Predictably, they made their way to the table and the pancakes proved at least tryable to Charlie. In fact they were wonderful, but not necessarily for a child’s palate. As Charlie tentatively tried a pancake and Eli grumpily munch a sausage, I got all reflective. I do that a lot.
My first son was born when I was 27. That sounds like a good age, right? It is if you have prepared for the responsibility. I was not so much prepared. I looked down at the wiggling little man in front of me and thought “For the love of God, I can’t even keep track of my car keys and now I am responsible for this?”
Parker taught me that any male can produce a child but it takes a man to be Daddy. The responsibility can be overwhelming. It can be crushing. You are a guiding force for a human being. This shit is real. Then one night you will stagger up to the crib with a bottle of formula at 3:02 am and pick up your wailing infant. Then the wailing will stop and you’ll realize that you haven’t given the baby the bottle, but he quieted down just because you picked him up. In the darkness you’ll see unbelievably beautiful eyes looking up at you and he, or she of course, will take your finger in his little hand and the bottle in his mouth at the same time and the responsibility will turn to into privilege. It is still real, but it is different. Only a hero can pull off something this profound. That’s what kids do. They turn you into a hero.
I don’t always feel like a hero, but occasionally my boys remind me. I will kiss an owie or straighten handle bars. I felt pretty heroic when we were planting our crops in pots in our backyard. I was feeling a little less like a hero at Parker’s wedding recently. I was feeling kind of useless actually. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, it’s just the nature of my role in the wedding. Outside of a short speech at the rehearsal dinner and a toast at the wedding, the father of the groom has limited practical duties.
I watched as Parker’s stress level spiked when heavy rains and thunderstorms forced the ceremony inside. A mix up in communications made it so there was nobody from the venue to supervise moving the ceremony indoors. The bride’s father enforced his hero status with her by taking charge. Parker and his groomsmen were in a small lounge. I walked in and could see how stressed he was. I walked up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. He turned slightly and looked at me. All I could do was look back and smile. He put his arm around me and I felt him relax a little. We didn’t say anything, but we didn’t really have to. He took a deep breath and smiled back. Yep, still a hero.
Parker is young, but he is a man. He hasn’t made all the decisions that I want him to, but it would be creepy if he did. He has a good job, he is supporting himself and he just married the sweetest young woman in the world. When the time comes, like in five years or so, he will be a remarkable Dad.
My sister-in-law’s husband Dave just became a father. As we speak his is caring for my sister-in-law and becoming my niece’s hero. He is maybe the most even tempered, rational man I have ever met. If his baby girl is anything like her mom and aunt, he’s going to need those qualities. He’ll do great and I couldn’t be happier for him.
After breakfast I took Eli up to his room to change clothes. Actually I herded him upstairs. It wasn’t working until I told him that I was going to get up the stairs first and he would be last. This appeal to his competitive nature almost always works. He ran up the stairs and into his room and yelled, “Ha!”
He took off his pajamas and I got his clothes. I handed him shirt, underwear and shorts and watched as he dressed himself. He plopped down on his bottom and held up his feet. “Daddy, do my socks please,” he said.
I worked the socks onto his feet then tickled them as was expected. He giggled and stood up. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me. “Thanks for my socks, Daddy,” he whispered. “I can’t do them like you do.” He buried his face in my neck and said “I love you, Daddy.” Socks make me a hero? I’ll take it.
My Father’s Day has been great and will get better. The boys suddenly realized that it was Father’s Day. Charlie has hugged me several times and I am currently listening to Eli’s cover of “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. I heard from Parker earlier. It’s been a good day.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you heroes. We’ll see you again soon on This Side of the Diaper.