The following reflection is both confessional and instructional. I hope you can learn from a seasoned dadcraft dad.
Thirty years ago as I knelt next to a bathtub in our home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I had a singular purpose in mind: scrub the boys; remove the unwanted remnants of a day of play. Wash cloth, soap, and elbow grease provided the necessary tools to perform the core activities that were associated with bath-time.
An unwritten but fully understood parameter around this time was that a successful bath-time was only possible if the water remained confined to the tub. Fill, soak, rinse, drain. Splashing and spraying were strictly forbidden.
On a recent Tuesday night, I was once again in the familiar kneeling position next to a tub… this time in Aurora, Colorado, and this time it was two young girls in the tub — Malia and Davey, my granddaughters.
Mary tended to the functional aspects of the bathing while I incrementally, intentionally, and enthusiastically broke each of the water confinement rules that I had established thirty years before.
I methodically refilled squirting toys and handed them to Malia so that she could randomly shoot whatever she wished… including me. She giggled… and I laughed. Her eyes lit up… even as she watched mine do the same.
The girls splashed, sprayed, poured, sometimes inside the walled confines… and yes, sometimes not. And not only did I not care; I encouraged. Openly fanning the flame of celebration and joy.
When we live life — really live life — water splashes. Sometimes it stays inside the parameters we’ve defined, but sometimes it escapes. Sometimes it gets stuff wet… sometimes it goes where we hadn’t really planned for it to go.
And as joy splashes outside its boundaries, something wonderful happens.
It may have taken thirty years, but I’ve finally learned what bath-time is all about. And to Andrew and Erik… I’m sorry I missed this point.
Spontaneous, unbounded, unscripted, beautiful life… that’s fatherhood to the fullest.
Fatherhood that gets dry things wet… fatherhood that requires a little clean up at the end… fatherhood that reflects sacrifice, risk, courage and celebration.
Yes, splash more. Fatherhood to the full. Buckets and squirt toys included.
Photo by Rachael Hollinger. Used with permission.