He always took special interest in the dog dish, but, lately, my 11-month-old son has a zealous yearning to dump it over. Geez, it’s annoying. Every day, I wake up, and between cracking the blinds and starting my coffee, I feed the dog as part of my morning routine. I fill the right side with sink water and the left with Diamond Naturals Grain-Free nuggets. The dog, licking his lips, polishes a knife and fork before the sun even beckons the day. And then…the little rugrat rushes over like it’s Black Friday, snatching the dish and flipping it upside down. Water seeps on the kitchen floor and Diamond Naturals sprawl like small shattered ambitions.
This happened once again the other day, and I caught myself, for the first time, yelling at my son. “ALVINNN!!”
Ok, you’re right. That’s not my son’s name, but the rest is true.
When Cartoons Get Real
As a franchise dating back to the early sixties, whether you were a child of the retro in front of a boxed television or you were an adolescent moviegoer of the early 2000’s, most can identify the above reference and even hear the bellowing voice ring in nostalgia. David Seville, the adoptive father of three talking, (and, more importantly, singing) chipmunks, provided an iconic holler whenever the most audacious one found himself in a predictable heap of trouble sometime before the closing credits. For many, this replays like a rerun in their minds, while behind the scenes, they nurse old wounds from a weighty past. Witnessing a cartoon dad yell at his chipmunks is fine entertainment until it conjures up memories of your dad yelling at you.
If, like Alvin, you heard the echoes of your own father screaming your name from another room, you can relate to the childhood terror that coincided. Instant panic filled with dread hit harder than a baseball bat in red rushing to your cheeks as you scoured the filing cabinets in your head to recall what you had done to deserve such a verbal lashing. Like a dog with his tail between his legs, you followed the voice to the slaughter, whimpering to your butt a pep talk on how to best handle the spanking sure to come.
Dads Get Dirty
Men, especially those with mental illness, can be prone to irritability and outbursts of anger. But, instead of taking after the David Sevilles surging fear through my child’s bones with a booming voice, I want to be a dad who gets dirty. I hope to stoop down in my child’s dirt, grappling with his issues in the thick of things and encouraging him from where he’s at. I don’t want to call him from the room upstairs to walk the green mile in dread.
Yes, I plan to raise respectful and all-around good kids; yes, I will have rules and guidelines to help navigate the teenage years; yes, I believe in consequences. My point is less about the end and more about the means. I want to climb into the pit, leaving the throne of my own comfort to meet him where he’s at emotionally, and I want to represent this by going to him physically when I need to address him. I hope to be a gentle, humble, and proactive pursuer of his heart.
And I believe that the greatest among us get the dirtiest.
She Wasn’t A Dad But…
Though she wasn’t a dad, Saint Mother Teresa is considered one of the most outstanding humanitarians of the twentieth century, not because of her greatness, but because of her willingness to descend to the lowest, poorest, and darkest corners of society. She did not yell from the top of the ladder demanding the less fortunate to climb up but spent her time and energy investing in those at the bottom rung. In the same way, we should invest at the bottom rung where our kids are finding their footing. Let’s not loftily run our households with scare-tactics, but let’s meet our children where they’re at, looking to the greats who became the least out of fierce love for the lowest. Mother Teresa once said, “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”
I am not nor will I ever be a perfect father, but I think David Seville should climb off his ladder to love his children on the bottom rung…as should I and many other fathers with hoarse voices. Let’s pursue our kids.
What do you think about this? Comment below!