I told you My John is an author, right?
It’s kind of how we got to know each other. He wrote a weekly column for a Bay Area newspaper, and he’d send it to me first to edit. There were a couple of occasions when I did guest posts for him, so I thought it might be nice to return the favor.
In honor of Father’s Day, I found this one he wrote in 2012 and dusted off the pages. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m a Really Good Dad, by John Gavin
I think I’m a good Dad to my two sons.
I try to protect them where needed and let them learn life’s lessons first hand when possible. I give them good advice and try to be there when they need a helping hand or sympathetic ear.
As competent as I currently am, it took me a while to get here – 19 and 21 years to be precise. Those are their current ages. When those numbers were smaller I wasn’t quite the skilled parent I am now.
There was a time when I wasn’t too smooth at this gig.
But that’s usually how it goes, right? We start out not knowing very much about how to parent and end up knowing a lot. For instance, when my oldest boy was a toddler, I was so afraid he’d hurt himself on my watch I’d trap him into the living room with couch cushions. The two of us would then just crawl around the thickly carpeted floor until nap time (sometimes his, sometimes mine).
With his younger brother it wasn’t as easy because that one could find trouble like a drunk finds whiskey – he had a nose for it, which led to five emergency room visits in his first six years. Thankfully none of those left any permanent marks (or marks I can still find on him).
And, like his brother, very few of his mishaps are directly attributable to me. But there was a day I was watching both that a correlation could be drawn between a decision I made, and an almost disastrous outcome.
Here’s how it played out:
I’ve always tried to stay in decent shape – and biking is one of my favorite ways to do that. But biking is tough when you’ve got a three-year-old and a five-year-old whose mother is at work. So, to get around that I bought one of those trailers that you tow along behind your bike.
It was fully enclosed, and big enough that two kids could be securely strapped inside. I tested it out with short trips at first, and then longer ones. I was satisfied with myself because I’d worked out a pretty good plan.
But there was a problem: I also had a dog – well, technically a dog but really more like an eating, breathing, pulling machine – who loved to be where we were, doing what we did.
Any time the boys and I headed anywhere, Watson would plead to go with us, and we’d typically oblige. I’d put the leash on him, and we’d walk, me on my back legs and he on his, as he strained forward with every ounce of his being.
One day, as I sat in my garage considering my new bike trailer, I had a flash of brilliance. Of course, I thought, why didn’t I think of this before? I’ll tie Watson’s leash to the back of the trailer! That way, as I’m pedaling down the street with the boys, he can trot along elegantly behind us.
That evening I hooked up the trailer to my mountain bike, strapped the boys in, and tied Watson to the back. As I straddled my bike I remember a sense of pride. I was a man on a bike, with kids in a trailer and a dog who was coming along. I was like a medieval horseman with his brigade – I looked out over my minions, and saw that all was well.
As I pedaled down my driveway and turned onto the street all was still well. But as I turned onto the next street my heart almost stopped when I saw a cat about two lawns up!
Okay John, I thought to myself, keep your cool. The cat’s just lying there – which means it hasn’t seen Watson. And if it doesn’t move then Watson may never even see it. And if he doesn’t everything will be just fine.
So as the cat bolted down the street away from us I had a pretty good idea of what was coming next. I looked to my immediate right to see Watson beside me – running and straining to go faster. The thing that was (barely) holding him back was the leash still tied to the bike trailer. But because Watson was now up beside me that meant that the trailer could not still be directly behind me.
In sprinting forward Watson had pulled the trailer sideways, which flipped it over on its side. So, now on its side, it was being drug from its front by the bike and from its back by Watson, with both boys still firmly strapped inside. And they were smiling. Yes, those could have been grimaces, but I like to remember them as grins. And it’s all about what we remember, isn’t it?
I remember being a really good dad.