The phone call


The Boy called the other day. He called in the most unusual way. The edginess of his voice caused me great apprehension. It was a mixture of excitement, weariness, and yes, even a little tension.
After over an hour of struggling, The Boy had accomplished something really remarkable. He was proud and wanted his dad to hear the news. I wasn’t the first person he called mind you, just the first to hear the news. No one else was home when he phoned.
His feat? After giving Little One a bath, feeding her, and wrestling to pull on her clothes, The Boy actually got socks on both wiggly feet. Hers, not his – I still don’t think he wears socks.

Now I know in the big scheme of things, this may be a small accomplishment. But trust me, any new dad reading this story is now applauding the feet … uh … feat.
If you live long enough, one of the rewards is that you experience each stage of life. Other rewards are achy joints, sore backs and your kids no longer listening to what you have to say. When your children finally get out on their own, it’s as though your I.Q. drops 50 points or, in my case, even more. Just ask your kids as they leave and they’ll agree.

But when they have children of their own, Mom and Dad suddenly become two of the smartest folks on the entire plant. If you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s hard to believe that such a thing could possibly happen, but it’s true. There is light at the end of the tunnel. When your kids become parents, they’ll actually seek out your advice. Welcome to my stage of life.
Transformation from a parent who doesn’t know anything about anything to one who actually might know a little something about some things doesn’t happen overnight. With The Boy, I’ve found there is a direct correlation between age and time. The older Little One gets, the less time it takes for him to call, text, or come to ask for advice.

The once-a-month calls asking for money are now gone. They have been replaced by the many-times-a-week calls. No longer asking for money, The Boy asks for more important things. Like do I have time to drop by the store for baby food, diapers, or the all-important wipes?
Note to new parents: Did you know there’s something called booger wipes? Yep, replacing the tweezers, a bent gem clip, or just fingers are wipes dedicated to the extrication of boogers. I was amazed that someone would develop such a product. Just think, desperate parents all over this county who have a never-ending battle with those dreaded boogers are going to actually buy those things.

I bought five packs. Never hurts to be prepared for the worst. You never know when there could be an outbreak of boogers and a mad rush to the grocery store.
The older Little One becomes, the smarter I become also – just ask The Boy. All those boring conversations about saving for college, choosing the safest family vehicle, and determining the most efficient ways to heat and cool your home are no longer boring.
Nope, now those conversations are extremely interesting. Why, just yesterday he called and asked my opinion about how to winterize outside water faucets. He didn’t follow my advice, but at least he called and asked.

Looks like at 55, I’ve finally become an endless fountain of useful knowledge and, I might add, a right handy babysitter for Little One.
That’s not to say The Boy and I don’t have our disagreements. Somehow he still finds time to argue between feedings and diaper changes. But the arguments are now few and far between.
Like turning a cruise ship, he’s coming around slowly to the idea that being a parent isn’t all that easy. It only took him 26 years to arrive at that conclusion. It took me until I was 33.

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me. The Boy wasn’t like me. I think, actually, he might be a little better. (The Wife told me I had to be nice to him this week. After all – next week is The Boy’s birthday.)
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]