I bought Isaiah a bubble machine. Well, I bought three.
The first one, a Thomas the Tank Engine handgun, dribbled saliva from a plastic chimney like a leaky faucet. I returned it that afternoon (on the basis of it being stupid) and bought the Blitz Bubble Blow Out Machine.
As the father of a toddler, when I think of the term blow-out, I cringe at the all-too-fresh memory of a more malicious and odorous bubbling along my child’s spine. However, unlike Tommy the Stank Engine, the Blitz is no piece of poo.
No, sir, Bob.
This thing pushes out more bubbles than your flatulent grandpa in a hot tub.
Of course, the first Blitz we had got stuck on so I exchanged it for yet another one of which I protect with my life so as to not have to make another trip to Meijer, griping about bubble machines. I already have a reputation there with a Polaroid in the break room of my face and the title, “weird bubble guy” Sharpee’d in the white space.
Lessons Are Caught, Not Taught
So, today, when Isaiah and I were karate chopping the innocent bubbles, I don’t know what possessed me but, I did the unthinkable. I turned off the machine…with my foot.
“This is salt in a father’s wound: watching his children stumble in daddy’s footsteps.”
It wasn’t a big deal, only that Isaiah saw me do it, and for the next half hour, I had to keep his pudgy one-and-a-half-year-old foot off of the machine. I didn’t want him to break it (I was determined to keep this one). I didn’t want it to spill, and yet I was the one who taught him to do the very thing I didn’t want him to do. I caught myself saying the words I’m sure any seasoned parent has said.
“No, no. Daddy shouldn’t have done that.”
When Dads Screw Up
The kid is a sponge, lately. The other day, he picked up a contact case and pretended to put lenses on his pupils.
Another time, while driving, I called some idiot driver an idiot and then, from the backseat, I heard cute innocent voice experimenting with a new word. “Idididi.”
As Isaiah rounds his 21st month of life, it’s apparent we actually have to watch what we say and do. I am setting the example for my son, and the most valuable lessons in life are caught, not taught. I can instruct him to bite his tongue when an idiot driver is being an idiot, but if my tongue slips and he sees me, my authority and witness are weakened. He’ll do what I do, not what I say.
And, this is salt in a father’s wound: watching his children stumble in daddy’s footsteps.
I guess the key as dads is to own up to our mistakes, apologize for the poor example we set, and reveal our humanity to our children through honest vulnerability. It’s easy to want to be the hero for our kids, strong and wise, but if we can’t be their heroes (which we can’t because we’re imperfect), we can at least be honest. We can be their dads.
That’s the kind of thing I hope my son can learn from me: the transformative power of transparency, humility, and those seven simple words, “I’m sorry. Daddy shouldn’t have done that.”