I have been thinking about change lately. Not in the way the seasons change, or the places we live move, or the way a caterpillar turns into a butterfly but instead the way our expectations change, our relationships evolve, and inner self matures. I often wonder what I expect of Toddler X. Or what relationship I hope to cultivate between him and me? How do I want my son to perceive me when he is a teenager or an adult? How do I ensure he grows into the son I want him to be? More importantly, who do I want him to be? These questions are far less about him. They are more pointed towards myself and the type of parent I want to be.
For those that know me, they are accustomed to my use of fables, tales, or myths to convey a point. This one is called “The Crab and its Father” and it is inspired by Aesop’s fable. The story begins on the sand along the Pacific coast, which is finer than gravel and coarser than silt. On top of the toasted coloured sand a Father crab says to his son, “Why do you walk so one-sided, my child? It is far more efficient to go straight forward.” The young crab replies, “Show me how to walk, Father.” The eager crab adds, “I want to learn.” The Father crab tries and tries again. He tries to walk straight forward but can only walk laterally, leading and trailing his legs, like his son.
Besides reminding me about the lyrics “Crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk straight” by the Smothers Brothers, this story serves as a reminder to parents – example is more powerful than precept. This of course takes me back to my own childhood and what my parents (and being father’s day) what my own dad showed me by example. Through his own actions, I learned the importance of reading (watching him regularly consume pages of literature), the love of words (participating in thousands of morning crosswords), the ability to enjoy the outdoors (through our many fishing adventures), passion for the Rolling Stones (through our many road trips blasting Mick Jagger), the importance of driving cautiously (sitting as an impatient co-pilot), and that it is never too late to change and to offer your children a lesson in life (and a gift). After many, many years (I won’t divulge how many), my dad finally decided to quit smoking. Well done, dad!
So the next time I contemplate the type of parent that Devin and I should be, I will show my son first how to walk forward, and only afterwards, insist he tries the same. But if he decides to walk his own path instead, I will only be all the more proud. Happy Father’s day to all the dads out there but especially to my dad – and of course, to the father of my Toddler X. May you always lead by example.