Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 9.30.43 AMThe other day I had a meeting with missionaries from Europe and the Middle-East who were in town. Naturally they wanted to meet at Cracker-Barrel, which has yet to penetrate those regions with their brand of down-home american charm (although it’s only a matter of time.)

Because of this meeting I was exposed to a few things: radical missionary lives, high-carbohydrate-gluten-rich-syrupy-greasy breakfast foods, and country music.

I don’t like country music. Never have. There are a few artists that others might call “country” that I like–but if I like them, I call them “Americana” because I just can’t imagine liking country, so deep goes my distaste.

But that morning waiting for my missionary guests a tune began over the tinny speakers in the Cracker-Barrel. It started with that familiar and obvious country electric guitar, accompanied by piano (or should I say, “pianna”?) I was about to pull out my earphones to listen to the new St. Vincent album for the 10,000th time when the country singer started in on the vocals…

“Driving through town just my boy and me
With a happy meal in his booster seat
Knowing that he couldn’t have the toy
Till his nuggets were gone”

I don’t know why… but I do love me a sappy father-son story. It’s one of the only overtly emotional things this jaded feller still embraces. I wrote a whole book of fairly sappy father-son stories, of course, but I love to hear other people’s stories too. So for the first time in a long time, I intentionally listened to a country music song….

“A green traffic light turned straight to red
I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath
His fries went a flying and his orange drink covered his lap
Well then my four year old said a four letter word
That started with “s” and I was concerned
So I said son now now where did you learn to talk like that”

I was intrigued. A little boy dropping the “S” bomb in the back of the car. This is a bit of a parenting moment. And so far no dogs had died and no pickups had been mentioned, so I continued to listen….

“He said I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah we’re just alike, hey ain’t we dad
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you”

Ouch… that one got me. I started to think of ways I might be influencing my kids poorly. This dang country song was bringing on the conviction! Also, there was no mention of getting into a drunken brawl at a bar–which I believe is the context of most other country songs I’ve heard. So I kept listening:

“We got back home and I went to the barn
I bowed my head and I prayed real hard
Said Lord please help me help my stupid self
Then this side of bedtime later that night
Turning on my son’s Scooby Doo nightlight”

Awwww! Cute scene. And praying in a barn? Okay maybe this guy is gonna redeem himself?

“He crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend
And I said son now where’d you learn to pray like that”

Here’s where I saw it coming of course, and I have to admit, I started to cry a little bit at this country song in a Cracker Barrel. I soaked up my tears with Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits as the senior discount crowd around me began to look at me funny. The chorus started again, but this time it had a the opposite meaning.

“He said I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama’s hand
Yeah we’re just alike, hey ain’t we dad
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you”

I’m not going to start listening to country music–no matter how hard you try to convince me–but I am so thankful for this simple little song with a great message for all us dads out there. For good or ill, they are watching you and me. Let’s make every day Father’s day for our buckaroos!

*All these lyrics are from the song “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. Get it here at Amazon.com:

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