Dads Dual Dragons

Dad’s today have a difficult row to hoe.  Its always been true but precisely how changes with the times.  Much has been written on the diminishing expectations of fatherhood, in part as a natural extension of empowering women to the point where culturally many see men today as irrelevant and fighting a rear-guard action of a receding role.  I’m a big fan of letting people think what they want.  So there is no reason for anyone else’s opinion of you matter in the slightest. 

You are captain on the bridge and while there is contemporary and historical precedent for striking your colors at the first sign of danger that’s not why you’re here.  You arrived to this point in your life because you know in the echo of ancestors that beats in your chest that you have something to offer the world.  I have no idea what that something is but I feel it too. These unseen challenges and undefined compulsions are what I refer to as Dragons and we as Dads are honor bound to confront them-but more on that later.

Being Dad means taking on the world. No man can conquer the world before he conquers himself.  It’s essential for you to know your fight is your own and your biggest victories will almost by definition be the ones that only you can truly comprehend.  Yet should you or any dad fail (myself included), the failure will be felt by everyone; one more kid that grows up either seeing themselves as a victim or too self-absorbed to do their part in taming the next barbarian invasion. 

As the military historian Von-Clauswitz pointed out, victory is rarely dependent on mere numerical or material advantage but instead much more a factor of morale.  It is this great equalizer that makes the dad in the famous online video who simulates a roller coaster ride with a laundry basket ( more than twice as awesome as a dad who sees their role to bankrolling a Disney land vacation while tagging along.  If you just got back from Disney land, I’m genuinely happy for you and good job for shepherding that experience but please realize that the experience is no more or less important or fulfilling in your role as a dad than teaching your kids the proper way to load a dishwasher.  It all matters, and it all comes back to that question of morale.  When morale is high, your squad can do anything.  When morale is low, even the glitziest of fun parks leave a stale taste. 

That is why I’ve committed to this project.  Your battles and mine may mirror each other but we are a world apart and while being a dad means finding the right path for your squad, I’m here to share stories and perspectives to hopefully help boost your morale and my own too along the way. 

Which brings me to my own particular rallying cry: “Dads Duel Dragons”.  Now the first thing you should know is that Dragons don’t exist.  But don’t let this fact convince you that dragons aren’t real.  To be an awesome dad you have to transcend yourself, go beyond who you are and embrace the razor edge of being fully engaged with where you are.  Naturally this is no small feat and the things that hold us back can be anything.  The problem is, we can’t see what we don’t acknowledge to exist. 

Here’s an example.  My oldest thinks his room is clean when all the toys and books are off the floor.  I walk in to inspect the job and ask him to find the thing he missed.  Minutes go by and he has combed the carpet clean of even the modest sized lint balls looking in vain for what I could possibly be talking about.  Now I have a quick temper and I’m sure that to him, knowing he’s not finding what I expect him to find is increasing the kid’s anxiety that we’re headed for a lecture.  His movements get faster, exasperation is entering his voice and and I realize; he can’t see it.  The giant comforter in the middle of the floor that has nerf darts and socks on top of it is just simply not on this kid’s radar.  That’s when it struck me.  See, his mother had changed the bedding and it makes sense that he wouldn’t know what to do with his old comforter but instead of squaring his shoulders to the unknown, this kid had created a dragon, which by definition didn’t exist. 

I actually used those words to him to.  I told him you have to be brave to fight dragons.  Did St. George know how to defeat his dragon? Or did he ride courageously forth and by determination and focus find a way as he was in the midst of the carnage?  I also asked him what to remember how the dragon grew while it feasted on the fear offerings of the castle village St. George liberated.  Then as a cherry on top I told him to see how this giant dragon in the middle of his room had also grown by adding darts and socks as its non-existence demanded more and more sacrifices.  

Why this story resonates in my mind is not so much about the learning lesson for my son, but how once I really engaged in the moment and saw his anxiety growing in time with my frustration at my son’s willful blindness I escaped what I wanted (a son who did everything I wanted, the exact way I wanted it done) to see that my role as a dad is to help him to be the best he can be in anyway I can think of.  See this way didn’t exist, it was my dragon.  I thought by getting him to clean his room I was showing up, being a ‘good’ dad.  That’s all well and good but morale is everything and my own was fleeting along with everyone else’s.  I could have stuck to my guns but instead I dueled a dragon. 

Half the fun of hunting Dragons is finding them and that’s what I intend to do.  If I can help you find yours or you can help me defeat mine the world will be better for it.  Good Dad’s show up.  Awesome Dad’s duel dragons. #Dadzooka