Earlier today my son finally said something I both anticipated, and, in some sense, feared.
Today was my wife's first official day back to work (she's a 2nd grade teacher) since the birth of our daughter. Sink of swim day for Shaun. My work week is Sunday through Thursday which gives me Friday off with our son. I love Fridays, we have affectionally named Friday "Dudes Day." It was our day to be dudes, and hang out. Typically this involved going grocery shopping together. I love it. Just me and the boy, hanging out, buying groceries, and hitting the toy aisle at Meijer. For those who aren't aware–Meijer has the best toy aisle. Target may win out on Legos, but Co isn't into Legos, yet. And we don't have a local Target. So lay off the Target-talk, okay?
Since Friday can no longer appropriately be called Dudes Day, because there is a girl present now, Fridays will henceforth be referred to as the Two Dudes and a Girl Day. And, today was our first Two Dudes and a Girl Day. It's 3:30p and so far it's been an easy-going Two Dudes and a Girl Day. There was one 30-minute period where both children seemingly lost their minds, but part of being a 32 year old father of 2 is understanding how to diffuse end-of-the-world scenarios. So we all survived and everyone has the appropriate number of fingers, toes, and teeth. Oh, and eyeballs, too. Very important.
In the process of getting ready, part of the daily punch list is somehow getting my son's hair into a respectable state. The kid can take a 15-minute nap and it's almost as though a white squall took place on top of his head. He wakes up and suddenly his hair is something akin to another life form. We've now moved into territory that includes applying a small bit of hairspray. But during the process of getting that mess of hair wet so I could calm and comb it down, I joked to him, "We gotta get your hair all nice and combed. You don't want to look like a goober like your Uncle Casey, do you?" Casey is my much, much older brother. Cohen thinks Uncle Casey is pretty cool. He actually has normal, non-goober hair, for what it's worth. But it was Co's response that made my heart leap, and pulled me right out of Joke mode and into Fatherhood mode. He said, "No, daddy. I want to be just like you."
And suddenly you are reminded that he is watching the way in which you live your life.
Not that you ever forgot that he was, but it seemed a bit more real at that moment.
I have great parents. There was a short, tumultuous season when I was in my later teen years, but I think everyone goes through that. I recall at the time I just thought they were being rigid, stiff-necked parents. Now that I'm older I just realize they were being good parents and doing what they should do to protect me from myself. So basically I was just a being a petulant, brat of a teenager. But my parents were pretty awesome. They supported me. They called me out when I needed to be called out. Recognized when I wasn't myself and sat me down. Disciplined me when I needed to it. I would also like to add that I only recall being grounded once, versus my brother who was grounded... a lot. They also gave me room to figure out who I was to be as an adult. My mother stayed at home and raised us well. My father worked long, hard hours to see that we had a life that he did not as a kid.
But that brings me back to Co's response about wanting to be just like me, and how I responded to him.
It only took me a nano second to think about, but there was no hesitation in my response.
"Well thanks, buddy. But, listen... I want you to be better than me. Okay?"
He looked at me for a second, then said, "Okay." And that was it.
I don't know at this point if he understood what I was telling him. You'd be surprised what that little boy picks up and recalls. And I have no idea of how good or bad of a father I am. I would like to think that I'm decent at it. I love my son, very much. I strive to make my life less about serving myself and more about serving my family. But I have my shortcomings that I hope he recognizes, gives me grace for, and does his best to avoid as part of his own character one day.
We all have our soft spots, but I just want my son to be a better man than what he perceives me to be. However good or bad his impression of me is, I want him to be better. Bear in mind that I'm not attempting to slap some expectation or standard on him that is so ridiculous that it would potentially one day crush him. That's not the spirit of what I'm trying to teach him. I just want him to see what is good and honorable, and take that a step further. And to see what is unnecessary or bad and avoid those things. He's a good kid. He impresses us every day with what he learns, takes initiative, and takes responsibility. Hopefully, we can steward those things and lead/guide him well.
Image Credit: ©2014, Shaun David. All Rights Reserved.