I theorize that the primary reason young men work out to build up muscles is that, on some primal, subconscious level, they know they will be fathers in the (very far) future and they are going to need their strength. This is primarily because fathers of a certain age seem to live to carry everything their children (and spouses) want carried.
This weekend we enjoyed ourselves immensely at an out-of-town soccer tournament. Throughout the weekend I watched as Mr. Wonderful, and his peer parenting counterparts, lifted that load and toted that bail (or lawn chair, cooler, balls, bags and in one case, an entire wooden bench).
I have watched a friend, over the years, continue to lift — as if effortlessly — not one, but two sleeping children onto his shoulders and then stroll around like it’s nothing.
It’s kind of his own lifting regime since, as the children have grown, his weights have grown too. If he kept that up until the kids are in their teens, he’d be a world class lifter.
When children are very little, good fathers realize they are, to their offspring, the ultimate sky box seat. I have dozens of photos of our children seated upon their father’s shoulders. He is always leaning, laughing or doing something with one hand firmly upon his child and the other doing whatever makes sense in the photo.
It never occurred to either of our children that Daddy would ever drop them — because he wouldn’t. How do you not adore someone who can fly you closer to the sun?
To our children Daddy is the coach, the fixer, the maker of fun and the provider of most all good things (after God, of course). When younger, our kids may have briefly thought “Our Father” and “Who art in Heaven” were actually two separate people.
When she was very young, our daughter once broke her daddy’s heart — just a little — when she sobbed inconsolably following the unexpected death of a pet — then sniffled, smiled, and said “but you can fix him, right?”
It simply never occurred to her that her magical daddy could not fix everything.
Certainly he was not perfect. Family lore is rife with the fact that Mr. Wonderful never could get the hang of the buttons up the back of baby clothing (to accommodate their large heads, infant clothing often features three snaps up the back near the neck).
He would always turn that around so the snaps faced front. His reasoning was it seemed more comfortable for the baby. While I can’t fault him for that, I was never quite comfortable seeing my daughter dressed with all the appliqués intended to decorate the front of her clothing displayed, instead, upon her back.
Mr. Wonderful once destroyed our kitchen counter while I was away when he demonstrated to the children how to crack a coconut (slamming it against edge of your kitchen sink is apparently not the method the natives use).
The bull nose tile crumbled, the children laughed uproariously (then ratted him out before breakfast the next day). We hung a towel over that gap for years — and the children still enjoy the story.
We are in the transition phase now. Teenagers do not need carried — at least not literally. I have more snapshots of a strapping young man and his equally handsome dad standing shoulder to shoulder and head to head now.
Daddy’s girl is now 5-foot, 7-inches of dazzle and speed. He worries about the boys, so much like he once was, but forgets that she’s been trained by the master.
Thus is the secret of strong fathers. His daughter does not know what it is not to be adored every single second of her life and does not suffer foolish boys for long. She has high standards for herself because of her father. He may have dressed her funny, but he instilled a sense of self esteem that serves her well.
Our son learned how to treat people — and how to ensure how he himself is treated. He watched his father show compassion and earn respect. He knows what hard work looks like. He lives with it every day. He is clever and quick — just like dear old Dad.
These days I am still a prolific photographer, but I get fewer photos of an adoring, gap-toothed boy trying to fill his daddy’s shoes.
Our daughter, meanwhile, is less likely to be sporting a pink “Daddy’s Girl” T-shirt.
Nonetheless, don’t let their age or size fool you. In both cases, as with so many wonderful dads who have done the heavy lifting — both physically and emotionally — whether it comes to trying to fill his shoes, or always being his little girl, their children always are.