There’s an old saying: “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad.”
I never thought much about being a father, or much about whether my own father was a father or a dad, until I was an adult. Once you’re an adult, you have the wisdom to see your father for what he is and was, and what he does and has done for you and your family, over the years.
Reflections on my father
In many ways, my father was the classic baby-boom father: tough, family-focused, hard-working, intolerant of laziness. Though he has softened over the years, to say he could be a hard man is a bit of an understatement. He has his own mind on things, and arguing with him is an exercise in futility. In most cases, in his eyes, he’s right. That’s it, end of story.
I used to joke that there was only one thing I was afraid of: my father. (It’s not exactly a joke!)
There’s other sides of my father, though. His generosity knows no bounds, not just to his family, but to anyone that he respects. If you’re sick, he wants to make you chicken soup. If you’re not sick, he wants to make you ravioli and fried meatballs. (He’s a damn good cook, too.) He does more to keep my family close than anyone, and he does a heck of a good job at it, especially when you consider he’s divorced, remarried, and has four sons.
My father is the type of guy who would level his backyard and put up a 20’ wooden playground if he thought his granddaughters would like it, just so they can enjoy it when they came to visit. In fact, he did just that. And yes, his granddaughters (three, no boys yet) love it. Well, one is only four months old, but she’ll undoubtedly love it like the rest.
Despite everything my father has said to me, despite all the lessons he has tried to teach me, the most important thing I learned from him is the one thing he probably never realized he was teaching. He taught me that you judge the character of a man by his actions, not his words. My father is a man of action. He does not sit by as the world revolves around him; rather, he moves such that he makes the world revolve with him. Through his own life, he has taught me that you are what you do. He does what he says he will do, and you better do the same, else you will feel his wrath. He is a man of his word, a man of incredible honor and integrity, a man who has, through his actions, influenced the lives of more people than he realizes.
I should only hope to be such a man as my father, my dad.
But wait – I am a father! Am I doing enough to be a dad, too?
Reflections on myself as a father
Just over four years ago, my first child, Alyssa, was born. Moments after birth, as I was holding her in my hands, crying like a baby myself, she peed on me. I’ll never forget it; it was wonderful. Alyssa, now four years old, also thinks it was wonderful, and she loves telling the story about how she peed on daddy.
Earlier this year, my second child, Jessica, was born. She didn’t pee on me in the delivery room. Rather, she waited two months later, when she got me during a sleepover night – the phrase we use for Friday nights when we watch a movie in the basement with sleeping bags and popcorn. Alyssa also thinks this story is wonderful, and she loves telling the story about how Jessie peed on daddy.
But how am I doing as a father? I know I try hard to be the best father I can be to my kids. I always remind myself that the image my daughters have of their future boyfriends will be based on the image they have of me. I have to set the bar pretty damn high if I want to keep my sanity in ten years, so I’d better work hard now!
The best judge of how I am doing is my own father, my own dad. In a card he gave to me, maybe a year or so ago, he wrote (and I am paraphrasing from memory): “I never thought I’d see a man who was as dedicated to his kids as I am to mine. I was wrong.”
Thanks, dad, that’s the best thing you could have ever said to me. Happy Father’s Day!
“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”
Forest E. Witcraft, American Scholar, Teacher and Scout Leader, 1894-1967