I was playing soccer in the back yard with Norah, age 5, and Tristan, age 7, when I accidently kicked the ball over the back fence. We have a small yard, only about a 5th of an acre, but somehow this was the first time I’d ever lost a ball over the fence.
Tristan was in a baby blue soccer uniform, with tall matching socks and cleats. Earlier that day he’d had a match, and never taken off his uniform. Norah was in a black dress and light up Disney Princess shoes. As the ball went over the fence, both kids looked at it fly through the air like they’d never seen anything so amazing. Like I’d just kicked the ball over a mountain. Considering that both kids are less than four feet tall, I can see how kicking a ball over a five-foot fence might seem like a marvelous feat. However, I saw it as a huge pain in the ass.
I really had two options. I could walk across the front yard, into the street, around the block to Pine Street, over to the fire station parking lot, and get the ball. Or I could climb the fence. I looked at the fence for a moment and wondered if I could still do it. The thing is, I’m 32. This isn’t old, but it isn’t necessarily young, either. I’ve started having more aches and pains. I’ve started to get hemorrhoids and heartburn. I’ve started to go grey and have trouble keeping off weight. But in my mind, I don’t feel 32. I feel like a teenage boy. I’m still a young man in my mind. That’s probably why I still find farts and boogers so funny. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that there seems to be a disconnect between my youthful mind and my aging body, and those two competing elements came to a head when I attempted to climb my back fence and retrieve my children’s soccer ball.
I reached up, gripped the top of the fence, and dragged myself up, using my feet against the fence for a little leverage. And as I climbed, Tristan and Norah sang cheers of encouragement.
“Wow! Dad! You are climbing the fence,” Tristan said. “I can’t believe you can still do that.”
I paused for a moment at the phrase, “still do that.” Then I quickly pushed it out of my mind and focused on the less backhanded elements of what Tristan was saying. Honestly, I was struggling to get over the damn thing, and I needed to think positively. I got to the top, and straddled the fence for a moment.
That’s when Norah said, “Dad! You are so cool!”
I looked at my sweet little girl and winked. It was a cocky gesture. One that said, “I am amazing, aren’t I?”
It was then that I realized that the parking lot behind our house was a good two feet lower than our back yard. Suddenly I was looking at a 7-foot fall onto asphalt. I thought about my body for a moment and wondered what this might do to it. Then I thought about my kids, how they were impressed, and the last thing I wanted to do was ruin that. Now in hindsight, turning around probably would have given them a wonderful lesson in thinking things through. It would have shown them that I’m the kind of father who values safety. Who isn’t rash or stupid. But I didn’t think about that at all. Instead I thought about how my kids will think I am f-ing amazing if I jump off this fence and fetch their soccer ball.
It’s funny how my kids can motivate me to make bad decisions. I want them to think I’m a hero, something close to Superman, so badly that any chance I can get to impress them seems worth it. All of it reminds me of the peer pressure I got in high school to do stupid things.
I leapt from the fence and twisted my right ankle. I didn’t cry out in pain, but I wanted to. I felt confident that crying would ruin what super dad credibility I’d just established. I could hear Tristan and Norah saying things like, “Wow,” and “Cool,” and “Dad is amazing!” I didn’t want to ruin that. So instead, I leaned against the fence, bit my tongue, and waited for the pain to die down. And once it did, I hobbled across the fire station parking lot, grabbed the ball, and threw it back over.
Once again, I was faced with another decision. Climb over the fence again, or hobble around the block. Like a dumbass, I climbed the fence. Why? For the same reasons I climbed it the first time. And as I fell into our yard, the kids cheered me once again. And once again, I twisted my ankle.
I sat down in the grass for a moment. Tristan gave me a high five. And when I looked in his eyes and saw how proud he was, I didn’t regret a thing. It all seemed worth it. I felt a rush of pride, of confidence, that was enough for me to get up and play soccer again for a moment. Just long enough for the kids to think that I still had it together. And then I went into the house and sat down on the sofa next to my wife.
I told her what happened. I tried to explain why I did it, and her response was, “That was really stupid.”
She was right. But at the same time, my kids think I’m a hero, and there is something about that which makes it all worth it. Even now, as I’m hobbling around work and explaining what happened, I still don’t regret a thing.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.