Some of my kids are into my teens now, and sometimes they surprise me.

They prompt us to read scriptures. They put on conference talks to listen to while cleaning, or while making dinner on Sunday. We’ve never done that. It’s not learned behavior. These kids are making us stronger. They even top off my curmudgeonliness. “Dad, you know how you call everything communist?” “Yep.” You should call it godless communist.” Yes.

Modern fatherhood is mad glorious. It’s every last stand ever told. You’re the one-man defender of a tiny little crumbling fort surrounded by a million slavering hordes.

Trouble is, you are not only trying to run around the perimeter constantly to knock off siege ladders and bash infiltrators and, oh, these old stone walls are constantly being bombarded and you have to keep them in at least some repair, but you also have to haul your kids along on all of it so they can learn the basic skills too, because that’s the point. Try fighting an ogre sometime one-handed while you hold your frightened child’s hand with the other. And you must give a patient running commentary on what you are doing in the fight and how, because that is the point. It isn’t optional. It is the point. It’s all the point, it all must be done, you must fight against overwhelming odds and rebuild a castle and teach your kids to do the same all at once.

It doesn’t feel glorious. It feels like the bitter edge of defeat. Then you come around a corner one morning running at full speed and you see your kid out on the wall fiddling with some massive contraption. What’s that ?Dad! A crossbow. I built it. You built that? Your kid is surprised that you are surprised. It seems the most natural thing in the world to them. Dad, of course! You showed me how crossbows work, remember? You didn’t even think they were paying attention, let alone figuring out how to reverse engineer from first principles a much, much larger one. I thought maybe those crossbows we already have are maybe OK for potting gobbos, but I thought we needed something bigger for the real big guys Does it work? And then you look over the wall. There is a nice scattering of orc chiefs, transfixed to the landscape.

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