K-Man is now Spider Man. The fire fighter thing was sooo 2008. And, the SCUBA diver thing was merely a phase – a rebound obsession, of sorts. He may have been in lust with SCUBA diving, but it was never love. Spider Man, though, might be here to stay for a while. K-Man is all things Spider Man…all the time.
Yes, an argument can be made for the fact that by getting him things like Spider Man toys, DVDs, shirts and stickers that we are merely pouring fuel on the super hero fire, but an argument can also be made that these Spider Man themed toys are also rewards for developments like the fact that K-Man is now potty trained. “I tell you what, K-Man, you crap in the toilet and you can have that Spider Man helicopter.” Diapers are WAY more expensive than a freaking helicopter. (And, a dirty helicopter, unlike the things K-Man left in his diaper, doesn’t smell like a rotting corpse, or have the consistency of a squished banana.)
And, truthfully, that’s what I find myself thinking about on this day before Father’s Day: What is it that I hope to pass along to the kid? Now that he’s old enough to be an actual “participatory cohort” in day-to-day life (as opposed to being luggage that is hauled from place to place), it feels like the teaching has really begun. (I used to say that you don’t become a parent until you start saying “no,” well, perhaps you don’t really start the heavy lifting until the conversation goes two ways.)
I’ve long said that my key goal was to support his passions, and I can honestly say that I’ve done that through his days as a fire fighter, SCUBA diver and now as Spider Man. But, then, there’s that subtle (or not subtle) struggle with the line between supporting and spoiling.
Call me crazy, but I like buying things for my kid. I like it when his eyes light up at me. I like it when he says, “Daddy, that’s cool! Thank you, Daddy.” I don’t love Spider Man, but K-Man does and that’s what matters. Then, there’s that line. Where is it? Have I crossed it? Am I damaging the kid by supporting these passions?
Obviously, the simple answer is to try to make sure that K-Man earns these rewards. Poop in the potty and Spider Man appears! (Magic poop?!?) Clean up all of your toys and get a sticker. Say please and thank you and get ice cream. Every once in a while, though, I want to buy him something because he’s my kid and I’m his dad. And, damn it, that’s okay too. It’s more than okay. He’s a great kid and for that alone he should be rewarded – not simply on a task-by-task basis.
I love the responsibility that comes with Fatherhood. The pressures are intense and, granted, it’s not always easy. (Insert Deity here) knows that there are plenty of times when we (parents) yearn for those simpler days B.K. (before kids). There are plenty of times when we’d trade our kid(s) for an hour of sleep. But, as they age, grow and learn, you have this great opportunity to teach and craft a mind and a life…what a great thing that can be. (Then they become teenagers and we’ll just want to trade them for…anything.)
I spend a great deal of time just watching K-Man. I watch him play. I watch him watch TV (WHAT? TV? Gasp!). And, I LOVE watching him with other kids. He’s so engaged. He’s passionate. He’s in the moment. I love that he starts every interaction with every kid with, “I’m Spider Man.”
That’s the joy in parenting, I think. That’s what I love about Fatherhood more than anything. Just knowing that K-Man, wearing his Spider Man mask and climbing the “web in the park,” feels secure enough to just go for it and own his passions.
And, frankly, that’s a lesson that I could probably stand to learn about myself.
Happy Father’s Day, kid. Thanks for being here.