Stomping in puddles like a man

For my forty-ninth birthday, I am going to Chicago to see my favorite musician, David Ryan Harris. On his latest record he sings some great fatherly advice his grandpa once sang to his dad:

“When the sun is on your shoulder, may it give you strength to shine. So that as you grow to be a man, you never lose the boy inside.”

Losing “the boy inside” has never been my problem.

I just spent four days with my younger son on a fishing trip. Seems like pretty standard father/son fare. And I guess it could be if one was inclined to let it. I’m not.

I have plenty of young friends with young families and I watch them and listen to them as they share their experiences of parenting. I love watching and listening to their anxiety about doing their best to raise their kids into the best people they can be. But I rarely hear them embrace or even notice the growth they are getting in return.

In my case, my son converted me into a Spotify user on our trip this week. He was listening to Dave Matthews while he took his turn at the wheel during our eleven hour drive. I said to him “why would someone your age buy that?” He said, “I didn’t old man, it’s on Spotify.” And then I learned the virtues of renting music in a modern way instead of buying it the old fashioned way.

While we were on the boat, my son tells me that it is a shame that the best fishing movie was made about fly fishing. I had to make sure he was referring to “A River Runs Through It.” He was. And while I love that movie, I had to remind him about the “Grumpy Old Men” movies. He had not seen them. Either of them. I would have thrown him overboard for that if he wasn’t so much bigger than me. Instead, he committed to seeing both films, and any others starring the late, great Walter Matthau.

One day on our trip, we took an ATV ride deep into the woods to fish a lake even more remote than the one where we were camped. The ride was an hour long on a muddy trail that I would have lobbied the government to condemn if given the chance. I have always thought motor cross and “mudding” were perilous activities that were reserved for those who didn’t value life. It is not like me to even get on one of these death traps. I’m glad my boy was with me.

I got on it first out of pure peer pressure and a desire to fish this remote paradise. My son rode in front of me, hitting every mud hole like a three year old playing in the baby pool. At first, I thought, “what a brat.” Next, I started to giggle at it a little. And by the time we got to the lake, I wanted to stay on the four wheeler and see if I could get dirtier myself.

Honestly, when was the last time you went out of your way to stomp in a puddle? I can’t tell you how highly I recommend it.

These are the awesome things old people need their kids to teach, or remind them of.

My dad passed away last year. Me and my six siblings did get to teach him a thing or two about enjoying life. He was an unwilling student. Not me. I’m paying attention to my boys because I will always be their dad. But I’m also selfishly paying attention because they know things I need to learn, and because they are having fun I also want to have.

Taking a road trip to see my music idol’s show in Chicago in a few weeks is something my dad would have never done. My kids think a road trip for rock and roll is basic operating procedure for theirs. Good for me.

Mr. Harris will likely sing a song at the show, a tribute to his mom in her voice to him. “I’m grateful for these moments with you child. I know God only let me borrow you a while. But then someday soon you’ll up and crawl away. It’s in your nature, it’s just how we are made.”

Sadly, it is nature. So I will embrace the lessons the young teach for my own good. And until then, I will keep an eye out for any puddle that needs a good stomp.

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Michael Leppert

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