Ryan hero worships his father. He always has since he was a baby. Seeing dad’s face brought about a goofy grin when he learned to recognize faces. As he got older, he became Sean’s shadow. Sean would work around the yard with a tiny human following him every step of the way. When Ryan started playing sports, Sean helped him by throwing the ball or shooting hoops or correcting his strokes. They would compete against each other in the pool or shooting baskets or scoring goals and inevitably Sean won. That was the norm.
Well the norm broke a few days ago in the swimming pool. At the ripe old age of 12, Ryan beat his dad in a 100 yard IM in the pool. That night at the dinner table, Sean mentioned to me with quiet pride that Ryan actually beat him in swimming. I looked at my son excitedly, “Wow! You finally beat dad! That is fantastic!
Ryan said, with an small smile, “I did. But it did not feel good. It just didn’t feel right, you know?”
“Why? I think that is fantastic! You should be proud!”
“No! He raced after a hard work out. He did a 400 IM, then a 200 IM and then he raced. So he was tired. And he killed me in the breast stroke.”
He was giving excuses for his father, I realized. In his heart of heart, he does not want his hero, his father to be defeated, that too, by him. In his eyes, dad is still infallible. He is not ready to accept glory over his father.
I looked at Sean who sat there smiling quietly at his son. Perhaps he was wondering when does the harsh truth dawn on your child? The truth about one’s parents not being infallible.