By Al Watts, South Elgin, IL
From Dads Behaving DADLY: 67 Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2014 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission. By Hogan Hilling and Al Watts.
The cul-de-sac was filled with bikes, balls, and Barbies; in other words, a typical sunny afternoon.
The kids in the cul-de-sac—so many you couldn’t count them—were going from one toy to the next like cats on caffeine. If your garage is open on the cul-de-sac, or “the circle” as the kids called it, your toys are available to anyone to play with. It is a little like socialism.
I was seated on my nylon folding chair throne in the shadow of our garage, a book in my hand with hopes of opening it. This was always a dream unrealized as I was a father of three children under the age of six at the time. Instead of my eyes gliding along the pages of my novel, I had them focused on my kids and their many neighborhood friends making sure they were safe.
Our nearly four-year-old daughter, Macy, had recently received a new bike. It was a pink Barbie bike with gleaming white training wheels and a silver bell; the coveted item on the circle. All the kids wanted a turn riding the newest item, and none of them were getting one. Macy proudly rode her new bike around and around the circle. All her friends were envious, and she knew it.
For a brief moment, she became distracted. She saw a tricycle belonging to one of the neighbors she wanted to ride. She dismounted her bike at the end of our driveway and ran to the tricycle. That’s where he saw the opportunity he had been waiting for.
Our neighbor’s son was the same age as Macy and had been at the front of the begging line to ride the new bike. When Macy finally hopped off, he ran over and jumped on.
I sat up in my chair. I wondered if Macy would notice. If she did notice, I wondered what she would do. She, like most other three-year-olds, was not a fan of sharing.
As soon as she made it to the tricycle, she looked back to see her friend mounting her bike. Her brand new bike. She abandoned all thoughts of the tricycle, ran back across our driveway, and grabbed the handlebars of her bike before the neighbor boy could start pedaling.
The brawl was on.
He smacked her on top of her helmet. She smacked him back on the top of his helmet. I stood up but stayed where I was. She needs to solve her own problems, I said to myself. Daddy will not always be there to save her.
WHACK! Again, she hit her friend on the helmet.
WHACK! He hit her back.
They both began screaming at each other. Tears were streaming down their cheeks.
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
Back and forth, faster and faster, harder and harder, they slammed the helmet of their opponent. Neither would let go of the bike. Neither would give in.
Now my daughter started pulling on her bike. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! Her friend hit her over the head. WHACK! She hit back while pulling the bike with her other hand. I stood still. I watched with anticipation. I knew they weren’t hurting each other by hitting each other on their helmets, but I was ready to spring into action in case they started making body blows.
Then, with one more correctly timed WHACK! and a pull, my daughter freed her bike from the grip of her friend. To consummate her conquest, she immediately mounted her treasure and rode away to the howls of her friend standing at the end of our driveway, defeated and crying.
I casually walked over to him and gave him a little hug which he pushed away. I then grabbed a nearby tricycle and encouraged him to ride it. He ripped it out of my hand, sat down and rode away.
My daughter and this boy had no more disagreements after that. In fact, they became very good friends who rarely argued again.
I was proud of my daughter for asserting herself and not backing down, win or lose. I was proud of her for solving her own problem even though I would have preferred her to use her words instead of her hands. I was also proud of myself for not intervening. Part of being a dad is knowing when not to interfere.
The world beyond the circle is not always fair. I want my kids to always work with others to solve their problems. When push comes to shove, though, I don’t want them to be knocked down. I want them to stand up for themselves. Too soon, I won’t be standing 30 feet away ready to help. I know, no matter how hard it is, if I give them the opportunities to fail and succeed, they will be better prepared.
Al Watts is a stay-at-home dad to 4 children ages 12 to 6. He has served as the President of the National At-Home Dad Network http://athomedad.org/ when he is not running kids to soccer, hockey, theater or the emergency room. In his rare spare time, Al enjoys a well-crafted beer, watching the Kansas City Chiefs and portraying a Union infantry soldier at Civil War Re-enactments. Before staying home, he was a classified advertising sales rep for the Omaha World-Herald. Al is the co-author of Dads Behaving DADLY: 67 Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood and Dads Behaving DADLY 2: 72 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood.
Hogan Hilling is a nationally recognized and OPRAH approved author of 12 published books. Hilling has appeared on Oprah. He is the creator of the DADLY book series and the “#WeLoveDads” and “#WeLoveMoms” Campaigns, which he will launch in early 2018. He is also the owner of Dad Marketing, a first of its kind consultation firm on how to market to dads. He is also the founder of United We Parent. Hilling is also the author of the DADLY book series and first of its kind books. The first book is about marketing to dads “DADLY Dollar$” and two coffee table books that feature dads and moms. “DADLY Dads: Parents of the 21st Century” and “Amazing Moms: Parents of the 21st Century.” Hilling is the father of three children and lives in southern California.
Originally published in Dads Behaving DADLY: 67 Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2014 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission.
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