My 3 year-old now wants to go to the bathroom in privacy and I have no issue with it.
So, as I patted him on the head and reassured him I’d be standing right outside the door, the scene seemed fairly innocuous. That is, until I heard three large thuds – the sound of a stall door banging repeatedly against its metal latch-lock.
As any concerned parent would do, I charged into the bathroom.
“Are you okay, buddy?”
My red-faced son must not have heard me enter. Instead of replying, he kicked the metal stall door and proclaimed, at the top of his lungs and to no one in particular, “I can’t close this f*cking door!”
My initial shock gave way to sputtering laughter.
I immediately turned to collect myself – mustering up the parental wherewithal to appropriately discipline him.
Even as I type right now, I can’t hide my smile – the same grin I wore later that night, when I recounted the story to my gradually more horrified wife.
It was very clear that I was much more impressed with my son than she was.
Despite the obvious issues with a 3 year-old using the “grand-daddy” of all swears, I must say, he did provide me with some shameful pride:
(1) His timing was perfect.
I tried to emphasize to my wife that Everett did slam the door a handful of times before resorting to kicking and cursing. Truthfully, I may have been quicker to such words if faced with similar frustration. His commitment to repeatedly trying to execute a no-dad-needed potty break was impressive to me.
(2) His inflection was spot-on.
I must admit that my son’s intonation was impeccable – using the f-word in the perfect blend of an emphatic statement and an aimless question.
(3) My son appropriately deflected the blame toward me.
Like a seasoned professional, Everett was pointing fingers directly at me after I caught his potty-mouthed tirade. It was impossible to argue the possible source of the expanded vocabulary.
By the end of the story, my wife and I were both laughing hysterically.
I feel at ease with making light of such a blatant parenting failure. In fact, I find it perfectly acceptable to share a few giggles when our kids do exactly what we tell them not to do. This is especially true if they break our rules so flawlessly and, afterward, call-out our hypocritical expectations.
These mishaps can provide a temporary break – a quick shedding of being the “always-on” parent that I’ve grown into.
In this moment, I was less like a father of five and more like the early-90’s-rap-loving, blissful teen I used to be.
It felt pretty good.
The belly laugh that we shared felt cathartic and overdue.
Those moments are as embarrassing as they are unforgettable. I will eternally remember the sound of the slamming door and the f-word bouncing off of the store’s tiled walls.
These are the times too often brushed aside by responsibility and busy schedules. They provide us a chance to be silly and irreverent people without ignoring the mission to be great parents.
For me, it is critical to be both a parent and person – even if I come to that realization when my kids f*ck up.