Diary of a Wimpy Father

Wimpy FatherMy son Elijah never heard of Evel Knievel, but the late thrill seeker’s legacy has little to fear from my kid.

The whole nature/nurture debate comes into focus when comparing Elijah with my younger son, Benjamin. Lil’ Benj will take headers off the couch if we don’t stop him first. If there’s a ladder nearby he’ll climb it, a chair within reach he’ll use it just like a ladder.

And then there’s Elijah, who avoids anything remotely dangerous. He gets a goofy look of pride when he jumps from our movie room couch to the floor. Keep in mind our couch is a Euro-style affair that hugs the ground pretty tightly.

“Look, Daddy! I jumped!’

In short, Elijah is just like … me. I’ve come up with a clever phrase to avoid anything out of my physical comfort zone – “I don’t like to be jostled.” And while I love to imagine Elijah reflects his Daddy in many ways – movie watching, cracking jokes or just being kind to others – his wimpy streak is something I wish I could blame on my wife’s side of the family.

Parents usually don’t mind having risk-averse kids. Less bumps, bruises and spontaneous trips to the ER. For me, seeing Elijah’s reticence to hurl himself down a kiddie slide is a painful reminder of my own childhood. I quit Little League baseball, in part, because I was afraid of getting hit by a fastball. I never took up skiing after seeing one too many skiers sporting casts on their legs on TV.

Later, as a teen-ager, I took abuse from a bully when I should have done what my Father suggested – smack ’em with a stick to show him I meant business.

That leaves me in a parenting bind. Do I let Elijah’s natural aversion to such manly pursuits as bouncy house slides go unnoticed? Is this a pattern that will change over time? Or should I consider the Carolla Method? Podcast king Adam Carolla’s six-year-old son has a similar temperament to Elijah’s, and Carolla essentially forced him to go on a series of roller coaster rides recently. The lad cried the first few times, but by the end he was cheering the experience.

I turn to you, fellow parents, for answers. For I am stumped …


  1. Beth Trapani says

    A lot of it is first child versus second, or so the legions of Moms I talk to tell me. Their first one is very conservative, doesn’t like to take risks, etc…. the second is a daredevil. That’s been the case with our boys, too. Just something to do with birth order and how having an older sibling to model changes the way you see the world.
    Personally I think it’s cruel to push a child to do things he is afraid of at this tender age. It’s one thing to encourage, it’s another to force. A parent should be someone to rely on – not someone you’re afraid will make you do things you fear. And yes, he will grow out of it to some extent, but keep in mind that every child has his own personality and you have to grow the tree you’ve got. Besides, there’s something to be said for laying in wait and not jumping without looking! And, when you were here at our house, I was actually rather impressed with how high Eli climbed on our swing set — much higher than our own son who is older than him. So some if it is just a matter of perspective!

  2. says

    We are all born with genes that develop in either direction. There is nothing wrong with being cautious. It comes in handy. We need some sensitivity in this world. There are enough adventurous folks running around. I agree with your other commenter. Don’t force. Just let it happen. Besides Eli ice skates and roller skates at 4. Some children wait till they are 8 or 9.

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