I am raising 3 future husbands and fathers. Heavy right. No pressure there or anything. I think my oldest has turned out well. But he wasn’t one of 3 at ONE time. Time to plan my road map. I drafted up a little reminder to them; consider it Mama’s 9 Mandates. I’m going to print this out and give it to them on the eves of their weddings and again on the days each of their children are born.
Consider this your Code of Conduct.
- Be a gentleman at all times. Use the manners your Mama taught you. I don’t want to hear that you forgot to thank someone or that you purposely hurt someone with your words or actions. You’ll always be my son, and I’m not above calling you out for crude behavior, regardless of how old you are. You belittle someone or act like a jerk when you’re 50, you’re still going to get an earful from me. If I’m not around anymore, I’ll come back and haunt you. PROMISE. Pressley-Perkins men are gentlemen. Always.
- Respect women. This means treating women–all women, from school teachers to little old ladies crossing the street–with kindness and respect. To be clear, you boys better treat everyone with kindness and respect, but you darn sure better be good to your wives. I don’t want them calling me up in 30 years to ask me why I didn’t teach you better. As they will NOT like my response.
- Stay active. Remember all those afternoon water-fights you used to love? Or those games of track-ball, freeze-tag, scooter-tag and hide-and-seek? How about the countless hours we spent at the library? I loved every minute of it, I promise. Your children are only young once; you are only young once, too, but if you’re lucky, you can drag that youthfulness out, holding old age and its dull, sedentary lifestyle at bay. When my grandchildren ask you to play, say yes.
- Stay creative. Long trips (to come see me) can be brutal. You’ll need to remember lots of songs, stories and incredibly corny knock-knock jokes. You’ll have to build a million train tracks, contraptions and critter catchers. The more off-the-wall you can make them, the better. I know you can do this; I’ve seen you make up song lyrics on the fly. There was an overused corporate motto back when you were little: think outside the box. Don’t ever lose your beautiful, imaginative spontaneity.
- Use proper hygiene. My hirsute trio, you are gifted in the ability to wash your behind. How many times have I said “Look like a champion; play like a champion”? Listen to my matronly voice chanting that through your head the next time you flinch as you pull out a dingy pair of underwear from your clothes on the floor.
- Be responsible. This is why I made you put up your clean clothes and take your plates to the sink. Pick up after yourselves. Someone has to do it and besides, your sweaty workout clothes are gross. But I don’t mean just be responsible at home; you are responsible for others now, too. Hone up to it. You are a man now. Walk the walk.
- Take time to relax. If you’re stressed out, your wife and kids will be stressed out, too. You are their rock, the center of the family. Your family worries about you more than you can imagine, and they cannot fathom a life without you. So don’t worry yourself into a coronary. your dad does that ALOT. Everything will be ok; really, it will. Do what you need to do to blow off steam–unless, of course, that involves getting a neck tattoo or going AWOL to Africa for 6 months.
- Bend the rules (a little). Don’t be so wrapped up with toeing the line that you forget to look up and see the parade. So what if your child wants to draw an entire chalk city on the driveway, eat breakfast for dinner or wear a cape on the airplane? Who cares? No harm, no foul, right? The chalk will wash away in the first rain, children in costumes are adorable, (see the one you arr wearing in the picture up top) and I know you remember how I embraced homemade pancakes for dinner. See 7, above.
- Talk to your parents. Obviously, I won’t need to remind you of this because you’ll want me to know how much you love me. But I also want you to want to call and tell me you got a new project going on around the world. I want to know every single time the Tooth Fairy visits your houses, and I want to know when my grandchildren are awarded a game ball. I won’t be here forever; please keep me in your life as long as possible. (I promise not to be a nuisance to your wives. Really. Just remind her that I’m happy to watch my grandchildren for the weekend. That should smooth the waters again.)
And then, when I get my hands on those grandbabies for a weekend, we’ll have breakfast for dinner after our afternoon on the Slip-n-Slide. We’ll dance around the kitchen to the songs you 3 listened to while growing up, songs your children will invariably think are terrible. We’ll stay up late, snuggled on a pallet of pillows watching old Yo Gabba Gabba dvds and eating soy or rice ice cream at night. Weekends at their grandmother’s house will be non-stop fun; my grandchildren will be non-stop fun, all because you and your wife will be doing such an amazing job rearing them.
Apples don’t fall far from the tree, you know.