I just go along. Kid wants to spend two hours flinging trains around the zillionth iteration of a wooden figure eight? Sure. He wants to ADHD his way through children’s Internet videos that border on the fetishistic (“Surprise Eggs” anyone?) all while eating toast, covered in powdered Kraft cheese essence, made by some ex-convict named Killa Dave? Let’s go for it. Naked somersaults on the guest bed? We won’t tell the guests.

The important thing is, we’re doing it together, right?

The way I figure it, I could crack down. Be a hard ass about a screen time. Or refined carbs. Demand only plastic-free, non-electronic forms of motor sensory development. But to be honest, I think all those obsessions of the modern parental blogosphere are distractions from the main event.

Absolute engagement.

When I’m with Declan, I try to be all in. Whether that’s watching a kids’ show on TV, running through the house like a wild man, talking in his monkey noise language, telling stories after dark.

Doesn’t always work. But if that’s the target, the right message will almost inevitably trickle down.

Am I going to let him juggle nails while mainlining Cocoa Puffs? No. Am I going to let him roast his face red at the park just because sunscreen bums him out? Hardly.

Without limits, we’re apes. So in our family, we do have some.

Don’t pee on the floor, for example.

Dinnertime is family time, even if by some miracle of time, space, and imagination Thomas the Train toot-toots his way onto Cambridge Avenue, offering private tours.

The dog stays, even if he is a nad sometimes.

And, most importantly, your requests for me to turn off my music in my car will be respectfully declined. Dad’s a dictator that way.

Beyond that, kid, the message is: I’m ok if you’re steering the ship sometimes. You’re the one with the entire world to discover, after all. You find your dot in the ocean, your bit of sky. And, for as long as I’m able, I’ll go along. To answer your curiosities. To keep you from crashing into the rocks. To stop you from doing naked somersaults on the guest bed with actual guests in it. That’s just rude.

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