Fatherhood isn’t Motherhood mostly because Dad isn’t Mom, despite the fact that our two younger girls still call me “Mom” from time to time.
On Tuesday, with Election Day in full swing and the older kids home from school as their schools were polling places, I had a moment of parental clarity in dealing with our son.
He ran inside from playing with his friend.
He raced upstairs to his bedroom slamming the door to the Jack & Jill bathroom.
He hollered downstairs to me with explicit instructions that his friend not come in & not come upstairs.
Now I’m no genius but even I could tell something was up.
Despite repeated efforts by myself & his older sister to talk to him, he shouted us both down and we relented. She went back outside to play & I went back to working from our home office. 7-year-old boys will be 7-year-old boys, after all, and I didn’t feel the need to get up in his bathroom business.
Turns out I should have been more proactive in my fathering.
30 minutes later, having gone back outside with his friend, he careened through the front door and made a screaming beeline for the downstairs bathroom.
As I rushed to meet him there I heard the twin yawps of a son claiming his big sister wouldn’t let him come in despite the fact that he NEEDED to “go” and a sister alerting me to the fact that her younger brother was currently defecating all over the floor.
I’ll spare you the more graphic details of the rest of my evening but suffice it to say that parenting – Fatherhood – of a child is (apparently) a lifelong lesson taught to fools by the insane.
Much disgusting cleanup in BOTH bathrooms, physical & emotional, ensued.
At the end of the day I wasn’t angry or upset – the poor kid had a tummy ache and needed my nurturing fathering – but I was more than a little surprised he hadn’t sought out my assistance. I’m there to help, after all. I’m his dad not a babysitter or a teacher. He shouldn’t feel emberrassed or ashamed or scared when he’s around me.
But he thought I’d yell at him and so he hid his discomfort and then both of us were literally in deep shit.
How do you console a sick kid who doesn’t enlist your help for fear of retribution? Let me tell you that trying to answer that question will make your head and your heart hurt.
Most of all I just wanted to hug him (after washing my hands & he washed his).
I wanted to tell him it would all be all right, being sick & being apprehensive of me.
I needed to hold him & comfort him in all the ways he needed my comfort during his discomfort.
I don’t know that I’m always the best dad in the world, but I know that my kids always challenge me to rise to the occasion. They constantly surprise & delight me, sometimes in terrifying & frustrating ways.
At the end of the day we’re intertwined on this journey together and I can only hope their memories & expectations of me aren’t of yelling & screaming threats to pull the car over, but of all the times I cleaned up their messes.
I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and I think that’s the part I hope they learn about parenthood: that Mom & Dad will be there for them, always.