Papa. Dad. Father. Old Man.
Whatever moniker you choose, it is shorthand for a vast melange of roles. Bodyguard, sherpa, busboy, both chauffeur and vehicle: we all know that there are a million professions wrapped up in the parent synonym du jour.
And most of them aren’t a surprise. It might be too much to say that we should prepare to be handling other humans’ poop, but we can’t claim to be surprised by this eventuality.
But there are some things that still catch a papa off guard.
Losing, for example.
Yes, I know, Life in general should, and did, prepare me extensively for losing, but it was Fatherhood that made it my job.
It is the job of the Papa to lose.
I mean, obviously, no grown man wins a race against a three-year-old. That’s like beating a wookie at space-chess: the wookie’s not happy about losing the game, and you’re not happy about losing your arm.
And yes, when the monster chases a four-year-old, it never actually catches them. My goodness, no! Then the four-year-old would have stopped running around, and then bedtime is hosed.
But I find it goes beyond even this. Chess, wrestling, pool antics: whenever my son and I are playing it’s just understood that whatever guy I’m operating – Lego Lex Luthor, Peso from the Octonauts, the yellow monster truck – will eventually lose to whatever guy he’s playing. Raphael the ninja turtle, a slinky, his own lego-superhero-creation “Fireman,” etc.
And I find as time goes on, that I not only accept my status as designated loser, but embrace it. Once I know that this is what’s expected of me, I’m allowed an almost limitless freedom as long as I eventually take the fall.
There is something imminently satisfying about a spectacularly executed flop.
Plus, it guarantees the Little Man will always come back for more.
And this is very important.
Maybe not as much as for legos or wrestling, but for chess, or math games, or martial arts – anything that requires dedicated practice, I want him to first enjoy it.
I was fortunate to land in the “talented and gifted” label myself as a kid. Which has a lot of perks. But one of the curses of being on the above side of average is that if you’re not good at something right away, you’re more likely to drop it.
This was the case with me, and I see it in the Little Man. If I were to beat him at chess more than one time out of twenty, he’d never play again.
But as long as I lose every game, he keeps asking me if I want to play. So I lose each game. But I lose each game differently. Maybe the first one, he crushes me. Maybe the first five. But then I start taking his pieces, making him work for it, bit by bit, game by game. Now he understands the mechanics perfectly, understands the concept of strategy even if he’s not able to bring it into play yet. He’s working on setting traps and his endgame (especially with rooks), and what’s more, he loves it. Again, I never have to ask him to play.
I just have to lose.
Strength in failure. Victory through loss.
Vedi, Vidi, Perdi.