Columnist Tom Martin describes a rite of parenthood: That moment when you're pushed aside, yet bursting with pride.

My wife and I expected our eldest son to someday abandon us for greener pastures. But we weren’t banking on it happening before he was potty trained.

Our 2-year-old-son Jay has always been independent. “I do it,” is his familiar refrain even though sometimes his “doing it” results in “it” not being done.

But on Aug. 11, “it” was done.

We — my wife, our 4-month-old son Finn and Jay — were at a wedding reception about 6 p.m. on that Saturday. Some soft dinner music was playing, and already Jay was finding a groove. At one point, he was on his knees facing the back of his chair, dropping and raising his blond head to the rhythm. He was wearing a black tuxedo with a bow tie because he’d been the ring bearer.

During the wedding, he’d gone 1 for 2, as they say in baseball. He basically had two jobs. One was to walk down the church aisle with the ring pillow. The other job was to stand and sit quietly with the wedding party during the ceremony.

He excelled at job one. He walked slowly down the aisle, veering off course only to avoid the wedding photographer. But he apparently missed an essential word in the second directive: “quietly.”

Jay began to babble as the ceremony started. I wasn’t there to hear it because Finn got so excited upon seeing the bride walk down the aisle that he soiled himself. I removed both him and his soil from the proceedings. Moments later Jay had to be bounced, under audible protest, from the ceremony. My wife, Sharon, was the bouncer.

But Sharon and I figured the reception dance would give Jay a shot at redemption with the wedding crowd. He loves music and dancing. We’ve danced with Jay since he was old enough to stand. This would be his first chance to dance with us in public on a real dance floor. We were excited and so was Jay. After the speeches and the special wedding dances, it was time to introduce Jay to the dance floor. Only it wasn’t Sharon or me who performed the task. The bride’s mother came over and swept Jay in her arms and began dipping with him. Then the groom’s mother picked him up. He also danced with the bride, the groom, most of the bridesmaids and groomsmen before Sharon and I got him on the dance floor.

When we did, Jay paid little attention to us. It was like dancing with a cat, not that I’ve actually done that, but Jay wouldn’t form the dance partner face-to-face connection. He kept facing away and wandering off. That was perhaps because he was shopping for hotter dance floor action. And he kept finding it. On that particular occasion, he found the bride’s mother again, who was dancing demonstratively with arms over her head. He went to her like water in the desert.

We pretty much gave Jay up to the dance floor. About halfway through the dance he was encircled by three 20-something women. And this is when he really shined. He bounced back and forth and shook his head with a closed-eye grimace — his serious rocker face.


The ladies watched his every move. He went to work, pulling out some of his old standards, such as the stomp and the clap. And to my amazement, the three young ladies began stomping and clapping with him.

No longer was he just the entertainment, but he’d become the dance floor Pied Piper. And when he’d used up his old moves, he invented some new ones. He was pushing the envelope, going where he’d never gone before — it became art.

One particular dance started with a hand chop to his forearm — similar to a referee’s illegal use of hands signal in basketball. The ladies imitated him. Then, he slapped his knees. They followed. And then he did something I’d never seen him do ... he patted his backside!

I swear to The Almighty, my son, who still drinks from a sippy cup, reached back and patted his little one-foot-off the ground hind end. And, of course, the ladies followed. Somehow, our toddler had women gleefully tapping their tushes and looking for what to do next!

It wasn’t until the walk back to the motel that I was able to establish eye contact with my little Don Juan. He hadn’t wanted to leave the spotlight for mom and dad. Sharon and I couldn’t give him what the crowd did, and he’d dropped us like a fur coat at a PETA convention.

Now we're left with a strange feeling. Our egos are bruised, yet we're bursting with pride.  Maybe that's the bittersweet taste of parenting.

Tom Martin is editor of The Register-Mail. Contact him at tmartin@register-mail.com or 343-7181, Ext. 250.