Mack was assigned a project when he was in 1st grade where he was asked to draw a picture that represented what he loved most about his family. My son, drew a picture of a rather robust stick-figure holding a house over its disproportionately large head. The title of his project- “My Dad can pick up our hose (sp)”- I’m pretty sure he meant “house” because being able to hoist the average garden hose isn’t really that extraordinary.
His statement may have been slightly embellished. Although I am in fact curiously strong, I’m fairly certain that I would fail miserably if asked to live up to Mack’s claim. But, kids can be pretty damn convincing and if you listen to them long enough their ideas go from outlandish to completely plausible in a rather short span of time.
I didn’t fare well against the house.
In my defense we live in a 2-story colonial complete with finished basement. I pointed this fact out to the rather large group of kids that had gathered to witness my awesomeness- but the little smart ass from up the street was quick to remind me that Mack’s picture said “our house” and not just “a” house.
My ego attributes the failure more to physics than lack of pure, unbridled, physical power. In fact, I’m somewhat confident that had there been a couple of sturdy hand-holds down close to the foundation my chances for success would have been substantially greater.
But whether I can, or cannot, pick up our house isn’t the point; the point of this anecdote is that my boys genuinely believe I can, simply because I’m Dad.
At this phase in my boys’ lives I’m pretty close to perfection incarnate, I have unlimited ability and there isn’t a topic in existence that I don’t have subject matter expertise in. I don’t register on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs until the third tier as I don’t require sleep, food, shelter, security or oxygen. I am invincible; impervious to cold weather, pain, injury, weapons of mass destruction and the smell produced by Maryland stink bugs when you crush them between your thumb and forefinger. I’ll never age because that’s what happens to mortal men (a thought most likely attributed to them being unable to process what life would be like without their Dad). I’m what they hope to one day become, what they strive to emulate and the yard stick by which they’ll measure all others; at least for the moment.
Not to say Moms aren’t cool- because they are; and they’ll have their time upon the pedestal. But for a little boy, if his father lives up to the responsibility of his title and sincerely commits to the investment of raising his son there’s a good chance he’ll get there first. How long he stays there depends on him- but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the value of his character, the consistency of his message and the example he provides through his actions, both large and small.
I know that I’m not perfect. I know my faults better than anyone, so I’m not worried about falling in love with my press clippings. But I’m smart enough to recognize the significance of this moment. Right now I have their attention. My boys value my opinion, allowing me to influence their development and hopefully lay the foundation which will define the type of men they will one day become. I’m also smart enough to realize that parental influence is a perishable commodity. As they enter their teenage years and begin to discover themselves my stock will likely fall a few points. They’ll see the wrinkles that crease my eyes and the grays that pepper my head and beard. They’ll come to realize that Dad isn’t as tall, strong or as fast as they once believed him to be, but none of that will matter.
It won’t matter because as they mature all of the “super powers”, that seemed so important to them as children, will be replaced with something much more significant. They’ll come to recognize the sacrifice, commitment and unconditional love that Connie and I have invested in them, and when they do they’ll come to the conclusion that raising a house is nothing compared to raising a child.