“Daddy said I was the right guy for the job.”
~ Jackson, 5
If we ever buy another house I’m going replace all of the fixtures on the first day. Light fixtures, faucets, shut off valves, and every piece of the sprinkler system not underground. Why? It’d save time versus the way I’ve been doing it— one by one as they break.
On Sunday I spent most of the day on some repairs to our irrigation system. In the morning I swapped out a number of sprinkler heads in the backyard, replacing older inefficient ones with adjustable ones to save water. In the afternoon I began rebuilding zone 5 in the front yard from the valve onward. It was poorly built to begin with and crumbling from years of exposure to the sun.
Nothing sexy but a little project which had to get done.
Want to help?
Late in the afternoon Jackson, our 5 year old, came back from the park with Kristen. Together we hung out in the garage while I put together the parts needed to replace everything. [Since we got baby chicks a week ago the garage has become a favorite place to hang out.]
Jackson bubbles with energy. He’s the most social McLane kid who constantly wants to play with his siblings, his parents, the dogs, the iPad, while watching Netflix on the TV. He’s game for everything… which is both really awesome and sometimes difficult to manage. He’s five. His world revolves around what he’s doing and thinking in that exact second. We adore our youngest but we have to admit he wears us out, too.
Gathering up all of the parts and tools I’d need to finish up my front yard project I looked at Jackson, who’d bored of the chicks and was busy telling mom the ten thousandth detail of Pokemon she’d soon hope to forget.
“Jackson, do you want to help me with my project?”
“OK, I could use an assistant. Can you be in charge of holding onto the tools until I need them? It’ll be a big help.”
“I can do that. I want to help. I like helping.”
“Good. You’re good at helping.”
So off we went. A screwdriver in one hand, a PVC cutter in the other, both of our pockets full of parts.
We got about five feet.
He’d taken off his shoes and we have prickly things in the grass right now. So I picked up my helper and carried him the rest of the way.
For the next 10 minutes or so JT held onto the tools I wasn’t using, swapping out what I didn’t need for what I needed. He told me stories. I tried hard to listen. He wandered and had me watch him jump off of stuff. He was doing his best and I was doing my best.
When we got it all connected I ran over and turned the valve on to check for leaks. There were none. We shared a high five then started tidying up.
“Did I help you daddy?”
“Yep, you were the right guy for the job. You were a big help. Thank you.”
“Will you carry me back to the garage?”
“No. But I’ll show you where to step so you don’t step on prickly things.”
Two minutes later, as I was putting all of the tools and parts away in the garage, Jackson was relaying the details of our little project we’d done together to mommy mixed with stories of the Pokemon he’d seen along the way.
“We cut the tube and then daddy put a part on the end and then I got to help squeeze it together and then we turned in on and it didn’t leak at all.”
“That’s great, Jackson.”
“Daddy said I was the right guy for the job.”
The Right Guy for the Job
I don’t care if you’re five, fifteen, forty-five, or twenty-five. A son needs to hear from his dad, “I think you’re the right guy for the job.”
A few years back my dad pulled me aside, “I’m proud of you. I don’t understand everything that you do for work but I know it’s good. You’re a good father and that means a lot to me.”
I lived off of that affirmation for a long time.
I can’t even explain what that meant to me.
McLane men are critical. We don’t affirm cheaply, it’s earned.
I didn’t know I needed to hear that but I did.
I think every man needs to hear that from his dad.
The truth is sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing a good job. Sometimes I don’t have a clue if I’m doing the right things or if I’m royally screwing up. I often feel like I’m just making it up as I go along— pretending to be a dad when I don’t have a clue if anything I do matters.
I see what other dads do and feel inadequate. Most of the time I feel awkward in the role, like I’m wearing clothes that don’t fit. Who am I kidding? I’m wearing clothes that don’t fit both literally and figuratively.
Beyond parenting a man gets beat up by life. We put on a hard exterior that everything’s OK. We convince ourselves we’re doing the best we can. We fake it until we make it… so we tell ourselves so that we can keep going.
We provide. We protect. We nurture. We try. We fail. We try again. We are good at work. We suck at work. We coast at work. We hustle at work. We brag about work. We lie about work.
Everything is great. Everything is terrible. We know. We don’t know. We’re OK. We’re not OK.
We know who we are. We have no clue who we are. We try to be ourselves. We try to be someone else.
We get a thousand compliments from our friends or comments from “friends” we don’t really know. Our spouse tell us we’re doing a good job. We align and justify our actions (or inactions) to match up to what we think is expected of us.
We overthink it. Sometimes we dramatically under think it.
We hold our emotions in. We explode in emotions.
We’re confident. We’re guessing.
Sometimes being a man, being a dad, is hard.
Sometimes a son needs to hear from his dad, “You’re the right guy for the job.”