Just this morning, something occurred to me. My 6-year-old son has a man-crush. On me.
This isn’t all that unusual I realise. Except that I don’t truly recall feeling that way about my own father. The world was a different place when I was 6. Mostly, fathers went out to work. Mostly, mothers stayed home to rear the kids. The opportunities for bonding were far fewer, and the imperative to do so far weaker.
My wife and I have created a life where I am home two days a week AND the weekend. I get to bond with my boys. I get to do for them. Not all men are as lucky as me.
Last night as I parked my motorbike under the car port, I heard the screen door slam before I’d even turned off the engine. I turned around and it was Matthew. I had time only to remove one glove before he jumped up and threw his arms around my neck. I nearly took off half his face with my helmet, but he didn’t seem to care. I carried him inside and he just wouldn’t let me go. I managed to cut him away long enough to get changed before he clambered onto my back and started using me for a swing set.
Today, he’s been playing with my old mobile phone. It works as a device, but has no SIM card so he can’t call anyone. What it still has on the memory card, though, is the songs my band recorded in 2008. He keeps playing them. All day. Every day. And singing along*. Because it’s daddy.
I bring this all up not to say what a great dad I am. I am still on occasions vain, selfish, grumpy, distant and impatient. Usually when I have a story boiling in the back of my head. No, I bring this up because it’s a source of great joy to me...and gripping fear.
What if I disappoint him? What if I somehow, unwittingly, betray him? These are not actions I ever intend to do, but it’s not always in my control. And how can I get him to understand that sometimes, say, five minutes out of every hour, I need him to LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE without him thinking it means anything more than just “time out”?
*Actually, it’s quite funny to hear him sing along. There are lines he just can’t get. “Though I know I’ve been cryin’” becomes “I know, I’m a crayon”. “My heart bursts open, I fall onto my face” becomes “My door’s open come up to my place”. And then there’s our song called “This Father’s Son”. The chorus is “What I need, what I need” etc. which he heard as “Wormie Wormie”...so that’s what we all call it now.