I’m not always a great Dad. I understand that, and I try to work on it. Like anyone, some days I do better than others. For the most part, I think I’m a good Dad. And every once in a while I feel like I get it right. Joining karate with my daughter was one of those victories, giving us something to do together every week, an hour of working out and the drive to and from, just the two of us.
Another was with my four-year-old son a while back. He had been having trouble settling down to bed. We’d put him down at nine, and he’d bounce right back out into the living room with the cute grin on full power. (Cute grins are deflector shields for preschoolers, protecting them from parental wrath.) We tried a number of different tactics with little success. Then one night I tucked him in and asked if he’d like a song.
He said yes, of course. Usually mama sings and I tuck him in, but this was a chance for a bonus song from Daddy! He loved it. So I told him he could have a Daddy song the next night too … as long as he stayed in bed tonight.
For the rest of the month, there was maybe one night when he didn’t settle down. That cost him his Daddy song the following night, and he’s been fairly good about settling down ever since. Victory!
Then last night I was working with him on drawing, learning to hold the crayon and important things like that. He’s a bit behind his class when it comes to fine motor skills, so I figured it would be good to practice. But he gets frustrated when his physical coordination can’t keep up with his brain. We were working on drawing circles, and he was getting cranky and frustrated and wanted to quit.
So I said, “Now we’re going to draw bad circles!” He got a goofy smile on his face. “Bad circles?” I scribbled a zigzag on the paper. “That’s a really bad circle. Can you do that?”
We had a blast taking turns trying to draw a worse circle than the last. And then something odd happened. He scribbled a quick loop on the page, and it was the best circle he had done all night. More importantly, he was relaxing and having fun. He even colored a (bad) picture of Optimus Prime that I drew. (My Megatron was apparently unrecognizable, even to my Transformers-crazed boy.)
None of these are huge triumphs for civilization. But sometimes the small victories are just as important, and just as worthy of celebration and sharing.