Geese are to blame for the first big-league bad word I said in front of my mom.
I was 15. And taller than her. I was taller than her at age 7. No, it was at least 8. Maybe 10.
We’d just moved to Charlotte, N.C., from Greeley, Colo. Schools were on winter break, and we stayed in a Hilton until our house was ready (this was pre-Suite Life of Zack and Cody, so I didn’t know I could smart off and trick people and terrorize the front desk and not get in trouble.
As we walked around the lake, my mom, my sister and me, we dodged goose bombs all over the sidewalk. Geese, it turns out, poop more than toddlers. Like, 57 times more.
They’re giving and forgiving. And we dads – and men, in general, regardless of your status of having or having not spawned – must give them their props.
You have the inside track on parenting, in nature. Babies grow inside you. They are nourished by you. They’re suckled and protected and taught by you.
Dads, no matter how intent our actions, or sharp our awareness, or keen our sense of our place in a family, can’t know parenthood from that perspective.
Not even as a seahorse.
That doesn’t make it any easier.
Someone hit a goose with their car on my way home a few months ago. I passed by just after it happened.
This is just part of spring – you’ll see small birds chasing hawks to protect a nest; baby birds fallen out of nests, relying on nature and luck to survive; a family a ducks walking, mom in front, dad in back, babies in between.
My first thought was, “I hope that was the dad. So that the babies have their mom still, to survive.”
Plus, wouldn’t it be the dad who wandered out on a four-lane road, most likely?
I know our rep.
But being exterior, not possessing the instincts you do, isn’t always a convenience. Sure, it must be for guys who can just leave their mark and move on. Nature lets us off the hook sometimes.
Sometimes, we don’t want to be let off the hook, though.
I remember Jason. I’m pretty sure he’s passed on long ago. He was a ladies’ man, and made no bones about it. He was a real rover. He made his rounds around the neighborhood, spreading his seed in a wide radius. There were many pups out there who kind of looked like this tallish, cocoa-brown muttish player.
He was a dog. Literally.
And there were many puppies who could have called him dad. He didn’t have to stay. He didn’t have to park it in anyone’s dog house but his own.
Not all dudes are wired this way. Even when we struggle, even when we get things wrong, even when it looks as if we’d rather be doing something else, there’s something innate about being a dad that is so intertwined in who we are, that job – as dad – can’t possibly wander far from the center of our hearts.
Even when we’re, for all the world to see, mismatched. We know we can’t do things the way mom does. That’s OK. We’ll do things the way dad does. Even if it’s the remedy of putting down newspaper on every spill and mess, like Adam Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” we’re at least doing something.
Sonny Koufax, Sandler’s character in “Big Daddy,” decided at one point to allow the child in his foster care to do whatever he wanted to. Dress the way he wanted to. Even pick out his own name – Frankenstein.
“You can do whatever you want to do, buddy,” Sonny told the kid, “and I’ll show you some cool sh*t along the way.”
I’m not sure we dads should do it like Sonny Koufax (or at least, openly admit it), but when we let the leash out a bit and allow the kid to learn from her mistakes, it’s by design, often, and not just apathy.
No, it might not be the mom way.
That’s a tried and true way.
A way that probably has a great deal to do with the human race even existing today.
But, like mom, we dads will “show them some cool sh*t along the way.”