I remember it as if it were yesterday.
We were at some store buying something. We’d been in line for, I don’t know, a long time when my son said he had to go to the bathroom. He was 5. Or maybe 7.
I asked if he could wait. He said no.
Thus the creation of Lesson No. 28 in my "Big Book of Fatherhood:" If your son says he has to go to the bathroom and it can’t wait, he’s not lying.
That was more than 15 years and countless teachable lessons ago.
My favorite fatherhood lessons, so far
I’d like to say I’ve taught my son many things over his 23 years, like how to call AAA when you have a flat tire and other labor-saving life skills.
But he’s taught me some things in return. As I leaf through my proverbial "Big Book of Fatherhood," there are a few that stand out.
Lesson 9: There's pure joy in seeing the world through a 3-year-old's eyes.
Ice cream should not be leisurely enjoyed. It needs to be mouth-tackled. A dad-drawn little red wagon was the best mode of transportation. Whenever I wanted to hear the best sound in the world, I stacked blocks so he could knock them down. His laugh is still locked in my heart all these years later.
Lesson 14: The small stuff is the most memorable.
The trips to the park, the walks with the dogs, the wiffle-ball games in the street. These are the things my son most often talks about when we share stories of his childhood. Oh, and the time I threw a ketchup bottle across the room, creating a CSI-worthy splatter.
Lesson 76: Let him fall.
When my son’s desire for exploration vastly exceeded his motor skills, I was his shadow as he ran, climbed or swung. But if you live with a safety net always there, risk and failure have no consequences and nothing is learned. The skinned knees, the bruised egos, the broken hearts are required by adulthood for entry. And if he needed someone to pick him up, I was there.
Lesson 132: If you live by the text, you will die by the text.
As my son’s independence moved out of his brain’s basement and into its penthouse, text messages became the standard method of communication. It worked well until I didn’t hear from him within a reasonable amount of time. Say, five minutes. It was not a good look. Now if he returns my text within a day, I'm happy.
Lesson 1: It’s OK to be scared as hell.
The first time I held my son, I knew there was no way in a million years I was going to do this right 100 percent of the time. Somehow, somewhere, I was going to fail. And I did, many times. I still will, which is fine because being perfect isn't what parenting is about. And I wouldn’t trade fatherhood for the world.
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