My 13 year old son was helping me install a bathroom sink when he asked me a question I wasn’t sure how to answer. “Did your dad make you do stuff like this?”
“No,” I said. “He didn’t.”
“Then why are you making me do it?” He said.
Not to state the obvious, but he wasn’t thrilled to be helping me.
However, it was a pedestal sink, and I needed someone to hold it.
Naturally, he gave me that look that all 13 year olds get when they think they caught their dad in some logical trap, and I would now admit that making him help me install a sink was some criminal use of child labor.
“When I was your age, my dad was in jail.” I said, “That’s why.”
I had both my hands under the sink, trying to attach the drain. I was grunting, but Tristan was quiet, and it seemed clear that this conversation wasn’t going the way he intended.
“Then how did you learn to put in a sink?” He asked.
“I taught myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I asked friends. I had to do the same thing with learning to tie a tie, and shaving my face. Basically all the stuff I’m planning to teach you.”
Sure, he knew that grandpa Kent was my step dad.
And yes, he knew my real father had a drug addiction. But I don’t think he’d ever added it all up and realized that by his age, I didn’t have a dad in my life, and that meant not having someone to teach me.
“Listen,” I said. “I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. And it’s funny, I’m sure if he’d asked me to help put in a sink when I was your age, I’d have been pretty bugged by it too. But now, looking back, I really wish we’d have had more moments like the one we are having now.
I probably would have learned a lot, and wouldn’t have had to learn so much on my own, and I might not have made so many mistakes. So I guess what I’m saying is, I love you enough to be here, and show you how to do the things my father never taught me.”
Tristan had both hands on the sink still. He thought about what I had to say, and then he asked me another question that I didn’t expect.
“What’s that thing, there?”
“It’s a caulk gun. I’ll use it in a moment.”
“Will you show me how to use it?” He said, and in so many ways what he was really saying was, “I appreciate you being here for me.”
“Sure bud. I’ll show you,” I said. But what I was really saying was, “I love you.”
Clint’s new book “Father-ish” is out in October, and it is hands down the perfect gift for the father in your life.