Last month when I spoke at the Grand Opening of a Corpus Christi Library, I took my wife and 7-year-old son along. We made it a family get-away/working weekend.
On the morning before my presentation, we walked out on a pier that overlooked a huge school of white jelly fish. They kept us entertained for about an hour, bobbling up to the surface and then disappearing underneath. They looked like cotton bolls floating on water. Afterwards, we rented beach bikes and rode along the ocean front (though I was a bit grouchy, preferring instead to take a nap under the shade of a tree).
My son knew I was going to make a presentation at the library. I'd recited my opening comments to him several times on our way in the car. But when we arrived at the library, he was indifferent. As I set up, he stayed far away, like he was embarrassed about what was about to happen.
A few minutes before my introduction, several people who'd bought books but weren't staying approached me for an autograph. And suddenly my son became interested. He glued himself to my side.
I began my presentation by reciting a couple of poems that I'd illustrated for educational publishers. Before I knew what was going on, my son became a part of the act. He was right up there with me, walking back and forth in front of everyone, looking up at me and out at the audience. A couple of times, I almost tripped over him.
What's wrong with him?, I wondered? Why doesn't he sit his little butt down and let me do my thing? Normally he has model behavior. But as I continued to share my stories, he crawled under the table where my books were displayed and popped out from under the tablecloth like a jack-in-the box, stealing the show. A few people laughed. At another point, he crawled on all four and snaked his way between my legs. Finally, I stopped and told him to go sit down and waved for my wife to come get him.
After my presentation, I signed books. Lots of books. And he stood right alongside me through the whole thing, telling everyone as they approached, "I'm his son. I'm with him," pointing enthusiastically at me.
"Daddy, you're a rock star," he whispered in my ear. That's when it all made sense. My son was proud of me.
Yesterday when I presented at the Hill Country Book Festival, I remembered my son's behavior from a month ago. To help him feel a part of the show, I gave him the assignment of passing out coloring pages to the kids. But that didn't work. He quickly passed the pages out and wandered back and forth out front, right along with me. "Sit down, man," I whispered to him. "Sit down, please."
I was irritated, but I didn't complain too much. I do the same thing when he performs at school programs or sporting events. I make a fuss. I take lots of pictures. Sometimes I break the rules and barge my way to the front, if it looks like I might miss a memorable moment. He's mine — I'm with him, and I let everyone around me know it.