Niel Vuolo needed something to pass on to his son, so he bought him something sharp.
I bought my 18-month old a knife.
I know that statement sounds outrageous, but it is 100% true. Perhaps I should back up a step or two.
Legacy and leaving something to be remembered by has been really on my mind since I became a dad nearly four years ago. Those thoughts ramped up in particular this past year as my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and I visited my dad’s grave (only the second time in the past 25 years). I didn’t know what to do with these thoughts; I started writing letters to my kids for them to open at a future date. But I was searching for more.
The answer came from a not-so unusual place. I was at a regular Boy Scout meeting on a Friday night. A ritual I have kept up since I was only 10 ½ years old, and has followed me into adulthood. That night our troop’s committee chairman Tom Dowd was running a program about knife safety.
Mr. Dowd (who I will always refer to that way out of respect), brought his collection of knives. Small knives, big ones, plain knives and very ornate ones as well. The one that stood out to me was a small folding blade knife with a faux wood exterior that he said once belonged to his father. And it clicked. I needed to get a knife that I could pass along to my son when the time was right. I had recently lost a really nice, simple locking blade Gerber knife, so it was an opportune time to purchase a new one.
Getting that unintentional advice from Mr. Dowd was exactly what I needed to hear from my boyhood positive male role model. Through the years Mr. Dowd has treated me and a few others who have gone under his wing as surrogate sons, both in the troop and in real life. Over the years our families had gone on vacations together, family weddings, and had many good times. But even in tough times he was there, after I lost my job last summer, I would run into him on the street and we would talk about strategies and ideas. Just brainstorming. He told me about times that he was out of work and that he eventually bounced back. And no matter how my career goes on from here, I know I can bounce ideas off him and that he has my back.
Years ago, when he got a job out of the city and could no longer fulfill his responsibilities with the troop as Scoutmaster, he picked me as his successor. There were older more experienced candidates, but he knew I could take the reigns and be successful.
It goes to show you that “dads” aren’t always related to you. And it’s a title that you have to earn from your kids; whether they are your own, or if they are ones that you find along the way.
So, I found a small knife, similar to the one I had lost. Sharp and true. This would be the one that gets passed down to my son. I am sure that if he follows my footsteps into scouting that he will have his own knives over the years. But even if he doesn’t, one day he will show off a nice modest knife and say that “this was my dad’s knife.”
Niel Vuolo is many things, a stay at home dad to two awesome kids, a writer, and a lifelong Mets fan from Queens, NY. You can read more about him and his adventures on his blog Great Moments in Bad Parenting and on Twitter @GMIBadParenting.
Originally appeared at NYC Dads Group.