The alarming thing about wanting people to step up is that sometimes they do just that.

When that happens, everything that was set in place to accommodate their resistance to stepping up gets jumbled. All of the adjustments, in-fill, sacrifice, work-arounds, the vast repertoire of excuses and overlooks end up scattered on the floor like too many shoes in a too small closet.

Say a young dad who has been a hit or miss father to his child suddenly decides to get serious and be consistent. And say his parents who have been filling in the cracks, who were re-activated after playing too many seasons, both with probable concussions from hard hits suffered in the past, say they stepped up to fill a void left by the young dad’s flimsiness, his inability to consistently attend to his child. And say his parents spent years being place-holders, providing for their grandchild the upbringing they thought they had provided for their son so that, at some distant point, that son would show up and become the father they had expected him to be.

And then he shows up. And he makes noises like he’s not just visiting but that he means to stay. He cooks meals. He does homework. He makes a space for his child in his life that looks permanent, but it doesn’t have all of her toys, her stuffed animals, her winter clothes, all of those things are with his parents who hold on to those things thinking they shouldn’t trust something that is so new, so strange.

“It’s what we wanted,” the young dad’s father says to the young dad’s mother. “We wanted him to step up and that’s what he’s doing.”

“I know.  You’re right,” she answered. “It’s what we wanted.”