Every now and then I find that my kids are absorbing the things I am telling them. There are germs on that doorknob you’re licking. Sharing with your sister lets both of you enjoy the same moment. Don’t run with scissors. Be kind to others. Mostly, I feel like I’m talking to a couple of quacking ducks waiting for me to throw bread at them. There’s no “I understand, Hondaddy.” or “That really makes sense to me.” or even “Wow, you’re the smartest person in the world, Honeydaddy!” I don’t get feedback to reassure me that my sentences aren’t falling out of their ears once they lay down for bed.

Occasionally, the kids astound me and in some way, shape, or form, they show me that I’m not just their personal butler and chauffeur.

We’re in the car and singing radio songs the other day. (Yes, they asked for it. No, I didn’t bribe them!) The kids enjoy hearing me sing. I suck, but they’re young, so their limited experiences set the bar very low. My performances have all gotten applause, even when I string random words together that make no sense. I digress.

Adele queues up with her new song “Hello” which up until last month was owned by Lionel Richie in my memory banks. I start singing as if I’d heard the song thrice daily on every local station from the minute her CD released. I belt out the line “At least I can say that I’ve tried to tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart…” All of a sudden, Wormie says “You know, Mushie. It’s not nice to break someone’s heart.” and I lost it.

My eyes welled up with tears as I choked myself on his words. How could Worm interrupt me in yet another spine-tingling vocal rendition? And how does a four and a half year old see the heart as anything other than a blood pump in the body? Somehow, he’s pieced together a metaphorical concept that even grownups have a hard time with.

Worm asked me for confirmation. “Isn’t that right, Honeydaddy?” I quickly wiped away the tears and swallowed my pride for him. “You’re right, lovie.” was all I could assemble with my eyes dripping as we continued the drive to the post office.

The way he spoke to Mushie was so matter-of-fact, it was as if he was giving a college lecture on the subject.

It shook me up.

Worm and I have never discussed heartbreak. I think it could be a somewhat complicated topic, so it hasn’t been on the table. We talk about planetary orbit, instead. Really though, we have conversed many times about simple things like friendship, love, kindness, and generosity. He pieced together this idea himself, kind of like he’d do with one of his lego cars.

Worm is wise beyond his years. Sure, he cries over a toy that he can’t have and fights with his sister over gummy bunnies. But, he is seeing human interaction at a deeper, more emotional level than other kids his age. He’s compassionate. Maybe it’s because his mind hasn’t yet been clouded by ego and negativity. Maybe, it’s due to pure curiosity. Either way, that day made me feel more substantial as a parent, more influential. I’m not just a pizza slicer, grape dispenser, butt wiper, dish washer, lego builder guy to him. I matter. Worm’s not just listening to me when I’m singing, but also when I’m yelling, consoling, and whispering in his rubbery ears. Maybe this “being a dad” thing is becoming a pretty important job. Or maybe it has always been. Now, I wonder if I’m getting through to the Mushmonster…

Teaching boys to become men.

I’m in California dreaming…

Gavin – 40; Honeydaddy – 26 (Worm, I’m starting to get the hang of this whole dad thing…)