I am not a “joiner.” I don’t really “participate.” I can’t feign enthusiasm so if I’m not feeling it, you’re not seeing any. Unless I’m drunk.
When I’m sober, you may be able to make me do something (depending on your level of authority) but you can’t make me pretend I want to do it. I’m looking at you, North Carolina State Trooper Jurgenson.
Such rebellion can be fun and empowering, and might even occasionally bear a whiff of integrity. But as a father, it can seem more like vanity, and it has the potential to create issues with your kids. Because when you’re a parent you’re going to be forced to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, and faking it won’t work. You can’t fool children, no matter how big a fake smile you wear, and the last thing I ever want is for my son to think I would rather be doing anything else but spend time with him.
Which is how I recently found myself making animal noises and pretending to be a horse and shaking maracas and singing like a frog. All with a big, genuine smile on my face.
Forcing myself to enjoy the things my toddler enjoys and, moving forward, my pre-schooler, tween and teen (provided he still gives a shit about spending time with me at that point) will enjoy, is easier said than done. But it can be done.
Despite the hopes of many people who still find my blog through Brony searches, the reason I was acting like a horse the other day had nothing to do with “My Little Pony”. It was because I took my son to music class. The class is conducted by a nice man with a guitar who leads kids – and their parents – in a handful of interactive music-based activities.
I have absolutely no qualms about acting like an ass (literally: I do a killer donkey) in front of my son; it’s acting like an ass in front of all the other people that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve always been cursed with self-awareness, which can make “performing” in front of a crowd difficult. Especially when my kid is barely paying attention to me and is instead running around like a crazed meth-head, totally ignoring my startlingly lifelike impression of a frog in order to explore every nook and cranny of the room while everyone else in the class is sitting down, practicing their ribbits.
But even when he’s not totally engaged in the class (he actually loves it and only wanders when he gets bored by the remedial stuff – he mastered woofing like a dog months ago, guys!), and even when I am feeling awkward about meow-ing like a cat while my son tries over and over to push open the locked door that leads outside, it’s still important for him to have these kinds of class-based, music-based, interaction-based experiences.
Far be it from me to be the dead weight that hinders his enjoyment of them. So on my first trip to the class, in the throes of pitiful anxiety about having to dance along to some insipid children’s song that everyone else seems to enjoy singing along to but me, I tried the method many public speakers use to calm their nerves: I pictured everyone else in the room naked.
Suffice it to say that’s not an advisable method in a room full of toddlers.
But I was eventually able to overcome my anxiety without getting confronted by Chris Hansen. I realized that as a parent I can’t afford to be self-conscious. Because it’s not about me feeling uncomfortable, it’s about my kid feeling comfortable. And if that means having to embarrass myself by snorting like a pig or playing peek-a-boo or using baby talk, then that momentary discomfort is a small price to pay to see my son smile.
After all, I don’t need to feign enthusiasm about making animal noises or doing silly dances; I just need to have fun with my son. And that’s not something I have to fake.
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