I was recently directed to a great blog post that addressed 50 Rules for Dads and Daughters. Check it out. It got me thinking about a (related) pet concern of my own: fathers and sons.
Working here in the the juvenile court system it never ceases to disturb me that so many of the kids who come through the door have no good father-figure in their lives. Many have no contact with their fathers at all, some have abusive or neglectful fathers, and way too many have no idea who their father is.
And it pains me to see those kids with no man to look up to. I have a huge role in my son's daily life, from waking him up in the mornings with a kiss, to taking him to school and playing with him when we're done with school and work, to the final kiss at night, the last thing I do before going to bed, and when he's already asleep.
I can't imagine life without him, and I can't imagine what his life would be without a loving father. Yet so many kids grow up just that way, I truly hate to see it. In fact, while I was writing this I saw first-hand in court how important that bond is, and I immediately posted about it.
So here's my Christmas list, not for presents but a humble offering to go alongside the one for fathers and daughters. (They aren't rules, I get enough of those at work.)
If you have a son, if you're planning on having a son, here are a few suggestions:
1. Treat his mother with respect, no matter what. He watches everything you do and he'll learn from you how women are to be treated. Never forget that.
2. Fight with him. Regularly. Use swords or just tussle and tumble on the bed (though not right after it's been made, see #1.) because he loves to see how strong his daddy is, and to show you how tough he is.
3. Tell him he's your favorite child, no matter how many children you have. I have three, and I tell each of them he or she is my favorite. I do it when they're together and they roll their eyes and groan and sometimes say, "Hey, that's not fair." I hope I'm teaching them they're all special, teaching them not to take things too seriously, and teaching them that their siblings are special, too.
4. Get him superhero underpants. That's what he wants to be when he grows up.
5. Get yourself matching superhero underpants. That's what you are to him.
6. Sit down and shut up. With him. With a book. No need to talk, with the exception of the occasional whisper from him about the volcano he's reading about, just sit in silence and read. Trust me, it will be a moment of sublime happiness for you both. (A hammock will do nicely.)
7. Watch Indiana Jones with him. You'll earn more points than you could ever spend.
8. Take his sister to a dance, and let him help you dress in your tuxedo. (Why? See #1.)
9. When you're in the car, give him a dollar to pass on to a pan-handler. He's too young to understand the larger problem or more complex solutions, but he's old enough to give to others in need. And believe me when I tell you that a dollar from a small boy brings a brighter smile than a dollar offered by you.
10. Buy him a whoopee cushion and help him slip it onto his mother's chair. Fart noises will always be funny, and the three of you will laugh for an hour at his first fart-related prank.
11. Take him to gather flowers for the rest of the family and, if you know what they are, teach him. Also, if they're from your neighbor's yard, gather them at night.
12. Tell him you love him, even when you're angry or disappointed in him. Ask him, "Do I still love you?" because you both know the answer is "Yes" and him saying it will make you both feel a little better and bring that hug a little closer and tighter.
13. Combine his name and the name of his favorite stuffed toy as the password for your work computer. That's a guaranteed smile every weekday morning. I know it sounds cheesy but it's true, I promise.
14. Tell him what you do for a living, and why its important. (If what you do is mundane and soul-sapping, either skip this advice or lie.) How cool for him to be proud of how you make a living and maybe want to be like you.
15. Don't let him win. Okay, sometimes let him win. But you should see the look on my son's face when he beats me at Uno or nutmegs me for real in the front yard. They are real achievements.
16. Send him emails. Oh, I know, I could encourage you to write him letters and keep them but let's be realistic here, would you do it? Nope, didn't think so. Me neither, which is why we created email accounts for each child and every so often send them updates about stuff we did, things they achieved. And it's great for pics. I send them a lot of pictures that might otherwise disappear over the years.
17. Teach him to swim. It'll give you peace of mind at the pool and ocean, open up a whole new type of playground to enjoy with him, and the chance to take very cool photos. That you can then email to him. (See how this works?!)
18. Kiss him while he's sleeping, every single night. One day, probably soon, he won't want you to kiss him any more. But the little sucker can't stop you when he's asleep! As I've said, it's the last thing I do every night, and I just love looking at his beautiful face thinking, "Wow, I made that." That's a nice thought to take to bed with you.
And with that, a very Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine.