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The art of war

Dec. 31, 2021
by Andrew Meuleners

When I was younger, I thought the title “Dad” gave you amazing powers. You get to make up rules that don’t make sense to anyone, and you get to enforce them with impunity. I also thought as a dad, you get to tell everyone what to do, and decide when, and where you go all the time. I found myself saying “when I am a dad I am not going to … and I will always let my kids …

Now that I am a dad and I know all the work that goes into it, what was inconceivable when I was kid now makes complete sense to me as an adult. Of course it isn't a good idea to run on a wet pool deck, or to put something into an electrical outlet. No you should not joust with your brother on your BMX bikes, and no you are not an expert in knife throwing just because you saw it at the circus.

I grew up as a farm kid and I remember this one time my dad telling me that I was sweeping the barn wrong. I mean really how do you do that wrong exactly? I thought he was insane, and yes, I did it his way. Why? Because if I didn’t there were consequences. That one lesson, in my life, to do something the way my superior wanted me to do it instead of how I wanted to, has been invaluable.

What I am saying is that being a parent is much different than what I thought it was going to be. I also find it to be burdensome at times. There are days that I wish I was a carefree young adult able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, with whomever I wanted. I wish sometimes that I could be a kid again, just living life one day at a time with pure joy for all things fun.

Some of my best memories of my dad when I was growing up, was when he wasn’t acting like my dad but just one of us.

I got that opportunity this past week. I had a day off Thursday. My wife, who is a teacher, was not on break yet, so it was just me and the boys. I have two boys, one 16 and then the other 11. The day started out as your typical day. We got up, ate breakfast, cleaned up, and I had a plan for that day. I knew that I had this day to get things done before all the craziness of the holidays.

Everything was going as planned until my youngest son said that his Nerf sniper rifle got jammed. Of course, dad mode kicked in and told him to let me look at it, and I proceeded to give him a lecture on being responsible with his toys and taking care of them because people spent good money on them. I was looking at the gun, but I am pretty sure he rolled his eyes at me more than once.

I got the jam out, and of course that meant that I needed to try it out. Now this is where the kid in me comes out, and I had to not only try it out but, I shot him in the stomach with the foam dart. This action elicits the reaction I was looking for, laughing mixed with a little rage. He says to me “Oh, it’s on,” and I say “Anytime little man,” which again gets the reaction I want. My youngest thinks he is 30 years old, so anytime calling him a kid or little he gets all amped up.

He runs out of the room, gets two Nerf guns, throws one to the oldest, and then it’s on. For about an hour we spent time shooting each other, ganging up on each other, taking breaks to reload, and just having fun.

For a little while that day my kids and I were on equal terms. They didn’t see me as dad, they saw me as one of them. They saw me not as the guy telling them what to do, enforcing rules, asking about grades, the bringer of authority. They saw me as just one of the guys and I loved it. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.

When it was all over, my kids talked all about how it was so fun, it was epic, and that we should do that more often.

I decided that we should do that more often. I don’t want my kids to think that I am too busy, or just too serious to have fun with them.

They know that I am dad, and that with that title it makes me different from them. It makes them different from their friends, but it shouldn’t mean that I am not able to give up that title for a little while and see things on their terms. I think that makes me a better parent to be able to see things from my kids perspective.


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