In my most recent post in the Book of Dadverbs, I Am Your Role Model, I talked about how important it is for dads to be the ultimate role model for their kids. One of the keys to doing that, I wrote, was being who you say you are. The risk in making suggestions like that is you instantly widen the audience of people willing to make sure you walk the talk. Well fear not, audience, you have a wonderful young man in charge of your operation.
Several weeks ago after a basketball game, Elliott and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. Once inside, Elliott told me he was thirsty. I told him to go ahead and grab a bottle of water out of one of the little refrigerator displays and we'd pay for it when we paid for the rest of our groceries. I never thought another thing about it until we were driving home and I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Elliott taking a big gulp of water out of a now stolen bottle of Dasani.
"Elliott, we didn't pay for that," I told him.
"You mean you didn't pay for it," he clarified.
I said something to him about the police being most interested in arresting the guy with the heisted bottle in his hand, but all I was really thinking about was the quickest way to make that stolen bottle of water unstolen in Elliott's mind. It was cold and rainy, so going back to the store and dragging him back in while I paid a buck fifty for a bottle of water didn't sound like a great idea. Turns out it was the best idea, but not the one I chose. Instead, I told Elliott I would go back to the store the next day to pay for it.
The next evening, I was barely through the door when Elliott asked me if I'd stopped to pay for the water. I told him I'd forgotten, but I'd do it the next day.
The next evening, he asked me again. Again, I'd forgotten. I promised to take care of it the next day.
The next evening - that's right, get ready to judge the guy who doesn't walk the talk - I'd forgotten again.
On Thursday of that week the dads' group from our church met for dinner at a local restaurant. The topic that evening wasn't dads who steal water, but it was close enough. Pastor Chad, leading the discussion, asked how many of our kids had lied to us. We had some conversation around that topic. Enough to discover that our kids are prone to dishonesty. Then Pastor Chad, always willing to show off his ability to read minds, asked how many of us had lied to our kids recently.
Now I hadn't lied to Elliott. I was honest each time he asked if he and I still had photos hanging in the local post office. But in our discussion with the dads that night, I knew there was a stop I had to make on the way home.
I've not had anything feel better recently than going home and handing Elliott a bottle of water and a receipt showing I'd paid double for it. And believe me, that boy checked the receipt. We were no longer wanted by the police. Not that we ever were - the cashier gave me a strange look when I declared I'd like to pay for two bottles of water but only take one home.
I explained to her what had happened earlier that week. She said it was nice of me to make it right. I told her not to give me too much credit, that I was thinking about writing a chapter in a book challenging dads to be role models. I told her writing that chapter would be easier to write if I didn't have my son interrupting me every five minutes to ask me if I'd remembered to pay for the water we'd stolen.
She gave me a funny look. And she didn't ask where she'd be able to pick up a copy of my book.