Last month we took the kids to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. There's a ride there called the "Wildebeest," which they call "the world's longest water coaster." This certainly made an impression on some of the kids, despite the fact that I pointed out that I'm not sure there are any other "water coasters" in the world. But anyway.
Our second day at Holiday World and Splashin' Safari was our day to hit the water rides. It was 68 degrees and cloudy, but it was our chance. I decided to ride the Wildebeest with the three kids who wanted to ride. On this ride, four people ride on a longish inflated raft/boat/thing, each with their feet extended forward under the arms of the next person in front of them. Except for the person in the very front--his feet are extended beyond the front of the raft and crossed at the ankles.
Now, I didn't want to be in the front. But neither did either of my daughters or my 9-year-old son. So, time to man-up. I took the front position. Because I'm the dad, that's why.
The ride takes each raft up a long inclined conveyor belt to the top, like a roller coaster. Then your raft is propelled through tunnels (some open, some closed and dark) with flowing and spraying water. There are additional rises and falls, as with a roller coaster. We screamed, as with a roller coaster. There I was, putting my feet out in front of the raft in which the four of us were being hurtled in directions unexpected through tunnels toward obstacles unseen. With my feet sticking out front, first point of impact.
Now, as I told the kids I would take the front spot in the raft, I told them, since none of them wanted to, that I would because I'm the dad. I also told them, after the experience, that I would get to use that same reason several more times over the course of our trip, as it suited me. Which I did.
This all got me to thinking. Why did I take the front position in that raft--the scariest spot? Because I'm the dad, that's why. Why have I crawled under our house to fix a leaky pipe? Because I'm the dad, that's why. Why do I at least try to go to bed at a decent hour and make it to work on time most mornings? Because I'm the dad, that's why.
Now, I don't list these tasks as if they are particularly monumentous or glorious achievements (Nobody shoots at me or blows up cars when I drive by, that's for sure). I list these things I do--the unpleasant and tiresome tasks--because by and large I don't think I'd do many of them if I weren't the dad, that's why. If it were just me counting on me, I probably wouldn't bother. But it isn't just me: it's my wife and our five children depending on me. And that responsibility has driven me to do good and valuable things that I may not have done otherwise.
The responsibilities of fatherhood have pushed me to do things. Maybe not heroic things, maybe not things that take much bravery or skill or strength. But they take more bravery, skill and strength than I would have bothered finding out I had, if I weren't the dad.
5 years ago