by Dave Markwell

“Dad didn’t do it.” My traitorous vulture of a thirteen year old son chimed in, accusingly and unsolicited, to my wife’s query about whether or not a certain project had been completed. I looked at him with a furrowed brow and shook my head. He smirked, looked at me and shrugged, and then left the room satisfied.

He does this often. He circles around like a buzzard waiting for me to screw something up then joyously informs my wife of my failure. He takes much pleasure in this, too much as far as I’m concerned. He never steps too far over the line risking his personal safety, but he certainly achieves being annoying, if that is his goal, which is the only reasonable justification for his behavior that I can find. It is a little disheartening that my son so relishes any opportunity to throw me under the bus, but he does, indeed, enjoy watching me squirm.

As I seek explanation for his Benedict Arnoldian conduct, I need look no further than the mirror to find my answer. My son is a reflection of me, though with furrier eyebrows. He reflects both my beauty and my ugly. I am proud when he says something clever or does something thoughtful. In these moments, I take full credit for his goodness. When he is snide and sarcastic or quick-tempered, “I don’t know where that came from” or I blame my wife. It is painful to admit that I am screwing him up. But I am. It’s what parents do.

Parents create human beings. And, since all human beings are screwed up, it is our job to make sure our kids are sufficiently flawed. Mission accomplished in my household and my own parents may have over-achieved.

Understanding that perfection is vastly overrated and magnificently irritating, parents must delicately shape the proper imperfections. This is a complicated duty, but an important one. Making kids that can thrive in an imperfect world is the objective. This is often unstated and sometimes unintentional and it may be a little unsettling to confess this, but it is also true.

Standing out while blending in requires a fragile balance. Being able to flourish while still maintaining piece of mind, and friendships, is a challenge. Compromise is necessary sometimes. Not compromising is necessary other times. The defining metric of success is how many people one pisses off. If you don’t piss off at least few people, you aren’t trying hard enough and will get nowhere. If you piss off too many people, they will stop listening to you and you will get nowhere. Honing the proper ratio of folks to piss off is the key to achieving success and joy in this goofy world.

If my theory holds true, then my son is set up for a pretty good life. He annoys me and his mom and sister, but is also kind and has many friends. He can be useful and gracious. I actually saw him help his little sister the other day and this single, simple action certainly improved his life by possibly allowing him to KEEP it, because I am pretty sure she was plotting to kill him. He is beautiful in his imperfection and I take complete ownership over this. He is my son in his beauty. The other stuff…I don’t know where that came from… I blame his mother…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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