What makes a man a man? Is it commitment to family? Is it an extraordinary work ethic or success in business? Or is it a variety of strange smells and lots of inappropriate scratching? Is it the ability to belch the entire alphabet or produce low-rumbling, room clearing noises at the pull of a finger? Or is it courage, strength, and the protection of loved ones?
I ask these questions, because I had a setback this past weekend. A setback that forced me once again to look inward and evaluate my role in the family hierarchy. Just when I thought I was clearly the man of the house, life threw me a little curve ball.
Instead of hitting it out of the park or even leaning into it and taking one for the team, I dove out of the batter's box like a prepubescent bookworm staring at the seams of a Curt Schilling fast ball. In other words, I demonstrated less than manly qualities in the wake of potential danger.
That day last weekend started innocently enough. My three kids were playing while I watched to make sure my 3-year-old son wasn't attempting any swan dives off the slide in our backyard. Then my oldest daughter noticed a lizard crawling near her sand castle, which she promptly caught in one of her buckets. She grabbed her little sister, and they proceeded to play with the lizard like it was a Basset Hound puppy. My son joined in, although he seemed more interested in bashing the poor creature over the head with his plastic golf clubs.
I was amazed to watch my daughters pick up the lizard and let it crawl all over them. Manliness issues aside, I didn't let lizards crawl on me when I was three feet tall and dirt was an essential part of my wardrobe. So I was quite impressed by my pristine little, hair- bow wearing daughters getting so friendly with this poor little lizard. Even as my son tried to drive the lizard a couple hundred yards with his plastic sand wedge, my daughters protected it and held it like it was one of their Barbie dolls.
I was so impressed I ran inside to get my camera, and I brought my wife out with me to have a look. My wife's immediate concern was for the well being of this little lizard, but she was also amazed her daughters could be so close and personal with a reptile despite its size and apparent willingness to be the afternoon entertainment.
I began snapping pictures recording this day for our family history, and my daughters obliged posing and holding the hapless lizard up to view like some Lake Murray fishermen who had landed a 200-pound catfish.
Apparently, while I was soaking up the moment and basking in the glow of my proud children, my wife was sneaking up behind us bearing a small, plastic, but very realistic toy tyrannosaurus rex. As my children and I huddled close together admiring the lizard and using up a roll of film, my wife thrust the dinosaur between us and yelled, "ROAR!!! Look out! It's the lizard's mother!"
My daughters giggled and hardly looked up from their new toy to see what their mom was up to. I am very ashamed to admit the only little girl screaming was me. At the sight of the plastic toy with (and I say this in all honesty once again) amazingly realistic features and the sound of my wife's accompanying roar, I threw my camera in the grass, sprang several feet off the ground covering my face like I was about to take a punch from Mike Tyson, and, yes... squealed like a terrified little girl.
When my wife finally stopped crying from all the laughter, she composed herself enough to speak again and quickly pointed out to me that not only was I the only one emitting less than masculine screams, but that I had practically flattened my son trying to flee from the tiny T-Rex.
But all I could do was get back up, laugh a little with my wife, and chunk that stinking T-Rex several hundred feet into the woods.
Luckily, my children were paying more attention to the lizard than the shrieks and back-peddling of their old man, so I may not have lost too much respect in their eyes.