By Tim O’Connor
As a server at a restaurant, my son Corey wears a tie. As a dutiful father, I’ve always provided him with the Dad-Assist Tie. That’s where I tie the tie as if I’m going to wear it, but slip it over my head and give it to him.
But the time comes when a 20-year-old son must buy his father a beer in a bar. No wait… the time comes in a young man’s life when he must learn to tie his own damn tie.
Recently he brought his untied tie to me said—in essence—”The time is now. Teach me this great skill of manhood.” Just a blink ago, I taught him to ride a bike. Now… this.
The lesson began with each of us with a long length hanging down the right side of our chests, the short side on the left. I had him stand beside me like we were synchronized swimmers. We didn’t synch.
Man, it’s hard to teach something I do in a mirror without thinking. ‘How the hell do I do this?’ (There’s a golf lesson in there somewhere.) Eventually, I managed to coordinate my hands and words: “Fold this around, and under, now over…”
He tried about 10 or 12 times, but after each promising start, the great moment when the short end is pulled to reveal the triangular miracle of a crisp knot gave birth instead to something that looked like a highway interchange made of blue stripes.
We tried it with him standing facing me. Nope. “Nothing worth doing is ever easy, son,” I intoned, obviously buying time. “Adversity builds character.”
“Right Hobbes,” the son mocked, rightfully.
Sensing he must seize the torch (well, the tie) and weave his own way, Corey tied, retied, tied and … until he turned his face skyward, punched the air and bellowed, “I freaking did it!” High-fives all around.
There was no great lesson for me—just reminders about being a father to my two boys. Be there, do my best to show them what to do, and then shut the hell up and let them do things for themselves.
The most important piece in all that? Be there. Really be there. If we can do that as fathers, my sense is that the ties between fathers and sons—and daughters—will grow tighter and stronger.
By Tim O’Connor