Mr. High & Mighty

Even "superheros" can be wrong sometimes. Okay, so I'm not a superhero per say, but I'm definitely human in the truly fallible sense of the word. I've always considered myself tuned in to my kids - their likes, dislikes, personality quirks, etc; and I take a certain degree of pride in that. Pride can be a good thing when it dovetails into the healthy confidence needed for parenting. Too much, however, transforms me into "Mr. High & Mighty."

Tell me about a parent obsessively driving their kid to become a pro athlete or star entertainer and BAM! I'm suddenly wearing my cape and tights. Hear a father yelling obnoxiously at his kids in public like I did while taking my son to the movies, and I instantly straighten up, fists planted on hips, chest thrust out, chin in the air. Never fear! A "real" parent is here!

As fate would have it Mr. Douche Dad (that's what my wife & I call obnoxious dads who act worse than their kids) just happened to be seeing the same movie with his four boys, and he just happened to sit directly behind me and my son Harrison. Being as how he spent the entire time nit picking at his boys, who ranged in age from probably 3 to 10, I'm not sure Douche Dad even saw the flick. The guy was annoying the hell out of me and it was detracting from the experience I was supposed to be sharing in my rare, one-on-one time with my boy. I started to turn around and say something then stopped myself.

Now Ron, hold on a minute, I thought. You can't say anything to him. He's a Douche Dad. He's a mere mortal. He won't understand. Once a bad guy, always a bad guy. I started to sit a little higher in my seat. He's not like you. You're special. You're a stay-at-home Dad. You parent full-time. You even write about it. Set the example for him [pause] Superdad.

By the time I was done with my personal warm-n-fuzzy session, I probably was blocking his view with my humongous cranium which I graciously moved out of the way long enough to give Harrison a quick hug. Take that Douche Dad. Your "douchness" is no match for my parental powers.

But there was a problem (besides the obvious one). When I get to be with my boys, I make it a priority to spend individual time with each of them, and I try to pick activities I think they'd be into. Movies tend to be a favorite, or they used to be anyway.

"I don't want to go to the movies," Harrison tells me.

"But we're going to get ice cream afterwards?" I explained.

After a slight hesitation he gives in. "Uh, okay." And we're out the door for a movie and ice cream just like a great dad should do for (what about with?) his kids. During the ride Harrison hardly said a word, and when I bestowed my wonderfully parental hug during the movie, he looked up at me.

"Can we go, dad?"

"But we haven't got to the best part?" I was a little crushed to think he might not be having a good time.

"Ya, I just want to go."

Wanting to be the tuned in and emotionally sensitive parent I fancy myself to be, I agreed and we leave the theater for the ice cream stand.

Taking the single scoop lime sherbet I handed him, Harrison seemed a somewhat happier, which gave me some relief, but half-way through eating his cone, he placed it in his lap. "Dad, can we go home now?"

I was crushed (key word I). How can he not be enjoying himself? We got in the car and left. This wasn't how it was supposed to be, especially with Harrison. As the middle child, Harrison perceives me to be more into his older brother Noah's interests, while catering to his younger brother Sawyer's many needs as a 3 year old seemingly leaving little for Son #2. Throw in two step-sisters and I wonder if Harrison feels like the one getting the fewest scraps of love from his "super" dad.

I looked at him through the rear-view mirror. "Hey, Bud, what would you like to do when we get home?"

He turned his head from the window, "Can we catch things?"

By "catching things" he means to capture and study as many creatures as possible including snakes, birds, chipmunks, salamanders, crayfish, frogs, toads, fish and anything else he can find. He loves animals. During our last visit he was still begging me to "catch things" as we were loading up the car to go back to his mother's place. It's the stuff he calls me up in the middle of the day and asks about.

"Dad, it's Harrison. What do butterflies eat? Are there poisonous snakes where I live? Can I get a hamster?"

How did I miss this? "Sure, what do you want to start with first?"

"Crayfish! Can we eat them? What do they like to eat? How big can they get...."

He was smiling, and I smiled in reply as my eyes refocus back on the road in front of me. Who's the real Douche Dad now, Tough guy? I thought to myself. I really haven't mastered anything.

Here's a few photos showing off a few of the things Harrison captured. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog... for the most part anyway.

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