We were at the toy store this past Saturday, just looking, while Mommy was at the Lifeway Christian store. As we were browsing through the Disney’s Cars aisle, we saw a grandmother, mother, and young son; I could tell they were on a mission.
“Is there a certain one you’re looking for?” I asked them, out of nowhere.
I ended up sending them across the street to Target, where I explained they were more likely to find the “Sally” car for a lower price; based on my experience of Christmas present shopping for you.
Then Saturday afternoon as we were on a family walk in the neighborhood and a lady with a dog was coming towards us, I announced to you that the nice lady had a talking dog.
I spoke with a deep, New York accent and pretended to be the dog, saying, “Hey Jack, do you like dogs?”
Yep, I carried on a 30 second conversation with you, as a dog; while both Mommy and the dog’s owner just smiled at each other at first.
Fun for us, slightly awkward for them. But it did lead to a real, actual conversation betwen Mommy and the dog’s owner.
Even just now as I’m writing this, Mommy proclaimed to me, “You definitely talk to random strangers more than anyone else I’ve ever met in my life.”
Thinking back, I would say the same thing about my Italian grandfather, “Paw Paw Metallo.”
So yeah, I learned it from him and I’m teaching that skill to you.
Granted, I only want you talking to strangers when I’m there too, for now. But I think that talking to strangers is a really good and important thing.
You never know when you can really make someone’s day. My suggestion is to stay away from generic conversation topics like the weather and “how are you?” as they tend to be pretty impersonal.
I think you did a great job this past weekend when you talked to the dishwasher man. I also liked how you also recently told your new gymnastics teacher, in the middle of the class, that you have a blue Cheetah named Cheety.
Yes, personality is part of it, but the main thing is, you find a way to get the conversation going. My experience is that people like that.
Even though you may be a complete stranger to them, I’ve learned most people appreciate the engagement, in what might otherwise be an ordinary day.
It’s important for fathers to teach and pass on skills to their sons. Since installing a new dishwasher or doing auto repairs will never be things I am knowledgeable enough to teach you about, I can teach you to talk to strangers.
Today I am following up on that topic with what I believe is a necessary and relevant sequel, by asking the question: Honestly, do dads secretly miss their “B.C. days?”
In other words, do dads long for the days before their child (or children) came along?
I can only speak for myself here, but here’s how I feel about it:
Yes, I miss the days of being much less accountable and responsible as a human being in general; having more free time and having the privilege of being able to take life less seriously.
But interestingly, like I said a couple of days ago, I was missing something in my life back then.
I would say that most men (the ones I know, at least) are wired to want to be responsible enough to have a loving and caring relationship with their wife, and therefore, also to have a loving and caring relationship with their children as well.
For me personally, I equate being a faithful husband and father with the ultimate epitome of masculinity.
Do I miss the best parts about my life before I became a dad? Sure.
But I think that focusing on the best parts of how things used to be can be a foolish and dangerous thing. Instead, I know it’s important to focus on the best parts of my life now.
The thought of keeping you at bay in the dog toy section of Harris Teeter while Mommy buys groceries either seems funny and random or completely typical for a modern American dad.
To me, it’s an honor. I get to mold a young 2 year-old boy in the ways of the world. I get to teach what is “normal.”
Yes, it’s weird to let you shake a white dog toy named “Flea,” as you think he’s somehow related to Elmo.
(“It’s Elmo?!” You confusingly tried to convince yourself, despite the fact he had 6 legs.)
But if it weren’t for me in your life, who would be creating these bizarre story lines for you? That’s my job and I’m proud of it!
Tonight, after I read you Where The Wild Things Are for the 9th night in a row, I told you that I love you; as I do every night after I sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as your lullaby. (That’s per your request, by the way.)
This was the first time you ever said “I love you” back.
I would choose the best parts of my life with you any day over the best parts of my life before you.
Having a son means that there is always a part of me floating out there in the universe. Whether he’s simply just asleep down the hall or away at day care while I’m at work, part of my brain is constantly thinking about him.
He is in everything I see. He’s in every random thought I have; from Gummy Bears to a Pomeranian with a buzz cut.
A few days ago on Facebook I saw a picture of two Pomeranians posted by one of my former students in Bangkok at Global English School. So inevitably, the following conversation followed:
Nick Shell What kind of dog is the one on the right? It’s look unreal!
October 20 at 12:32am · Like
A-ngoon its look unreal because its smile right ?? they both are pomeranian but the right one have a shorter hair ka nick
October 20 at 2:46pm · Like
Nick Shell The right one reminds me of my son I am probably going to use this picture on my website about him.
October 20 at 7:09pm · Like
October 21 at 11:38am · Like
It turns out that this Pomeranian happens to be famous; his name is Boo and his Facebook page has well over 2 million “likes!”
I can’t look at Boo and not see my son Jack; the way Boo is smiling, the shape of Boo’s face- that is my son as a Pomeranian!
Granted, a Dadabase post like this one will never show up in the Top 5 Most Popular Posts section on the right side of the screen. It’s so out there, I know. But I just couldn’t keep this enchanting and bizarre photo from the world; simply because I love to talk about my son- even in the form of a yappy little dog.
Maybe it’s just me that somehow sees the abstract resemblance. But I’m sure I’m not the only parent out there who thought their child looked like something just as weird. When you look at the world through my eyes, you see Jack-Man in the strangest of places.
I can think of three universally recognizable examples of unconditional love: God and man, parent and child, and dog and owner. But what about whom you marry? Is that unconditional love?
Isn’t that sort of the whole concept of marrying someone? To choose to unconditionally love a person you wouldn’t otherwise love to the point of “no matter what?” To me, that’s the most romantic thing a person can do. Even stripped of emotion and sentimentality, marriage is/should be mutual unconditional love at its finest.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons that marriage isn’t as easy as a lot of people may assume going into it. Instead, marriage is an ongoing process of mutual maturity. Marriage causes people to see how hard it can be to live with even themselves, from the perspective of someone who happens to love them unconditionally.
To love someone unconditionally means there is nothing that that person can do to cause them to fall out of ultimate favor with you. Sure, some days it’s easier than others, but that falls under the whole “for better or for worse” part of the wedding vows.
Actually, for a human being (outside of the parent/child relationship) to love another unconditionally is one of the biggest paradoxes I can think of. But it helps to put things in perspective by turning the tables: I, myself, want to be unconditionally loved.
I want to know there is a person who doesn’t judge me when I’m not in the room, but at the same time is brave enough to tell me directly and privately how I can improve as a person, in both big and small ways. I want to know there is a person who understands me, or at least puts up with me, when I’m being weird or simply not myself.
So maybe choosing to love another person is challenging, but for me, the bigger challenge was finding someone who would love me unconditionally. Thank God, that’s exactly who I found.
Knowing that my son will inevitably pick up on the vibes I put out there as I react to him, I make a conscious effort to be calm-assertive, as a dad. Here’s my own definition of calm-assertiveness: being cool, calm, and collected as well as being direct, assertive, and respectable.
I very much enjoy watching Cesar Millan’s TV show Dog Whisperer, as he teaches the importance of being a “calm-assertive” leader. It’s not only interesting to learn about how dogs were meant to be raised and trained, but also how a lot of what Cesar Millan teaches actually translates to human relationships. He himself has noted the comparison, being known for saying: “Humans are the only animals who will follow unstable pack leaders.”
The Dog Whisperer makes a great point about us humans needing stable, respectable leaders. When we (as well as our children) do not have a confident, consistent, authoritative example to live by, we can become confused, angry, anxious, rebellious, spiteful, and/or apathetic. I know for a fact that I am wired to want to follow the best human examples out there. So I am always looking around the room to locate the “pack leader.”
Sometimes that means that I need to be that leader, when there is not a legitimate or active one present. I was also programmed to want to be in control, because often, my ability to control is necessary and needed for the structure of those around me; especially at work and at home.
I can’t allow my son to begin to believe that he is the pack leader; that he is the boss. Sure, I know we parents may joke about our kids “ruling the roust” sometimes, but in all seriousness, there needs to be no doubt in my son’s mind who really makes and carries out the rules. It’s my job to make it clear that there are definite boundaries that must be respected.
When it comes to establishing those boundaries, part of my responsibility as a dad is to figure out the limits while considering my wife’s maternal input. Undeniably, I must make the conscious effort to establish order and expectations for my son to live by.
Granted, my expectations are necessarily and realistically set as low as they need to be. But I refuse to be a dad without direction.
Thank you, Cesar Millan, for introducing me to the concept of the term “calm-assertive,” even though I’m not actually a dog person.