On Fatherhood ~ Essay
I think I am a good dad.
I do my best to keep that perfect balance of tickles and discipline. The evenness of "clean your room & go outside and get dirty". The symmetry of “eat your veggies & one more piece of candy." The counterbalance of "if you do this then you can go do that."
This blog that you are reading today is nothing more than a love letter to my daughter. This blog, all 1,814 posts, is me. It's my thoughts, hopes, desires, my worldview...it's what I learned and it holds the questions about what I wish to know. It's an archive of all the stuff that I have created. It's filled with lists of book that I read and music that I have listened to, and with all that said...it's only purpose is for my daughter to know who her Father was. To know who I am becoming. Maybe to understand a little more about herself.
My current project is a collaboration with Erik Vecere, which is a short film on Fatherhood. Erik works for National Fatherhood Initiative. "Initiative." Interesting word. A non-profit company dedicated to helping Fathers become better Fathers. Who knew that an organization for helping dads existed?? Things they don’t tell you when a newborn baby is placed in your arms. In case of emergency go here...do go there. Lots of interesting stuff. www.fatherhood.org
At the end of our film Erik said the words "A unique, irreplaceable role, and that's Fatherhood."
That sentence struck a chord with me, resonated deeply. I haven't been able to shake the question "Am I good at being a Dad?"
The opening paragraph above is me rambling about the greatness of the father that I am. Beware, I also feel that I am extremely good looking and even more talented than my good looks. Read on to see how well an ego like mine can father a child.
To give you engaged reader some context: I am 44yrs old and as I write this in three days my daughter will turn eight. Eight years into the journey of parenting a child seems like a good time to be evaluated.
Evaluation. Let's start there. Who gets to evaluate my Fathering skills? My wife, Grandparents, community, CYS, God, my daughter, myself. Answer is....my spouse first and coming in a close second place is a tie between God and myself. I am not afraid to go one-on-one with God. God doesn’t gives hugs, I do.
I do not do drugs, haven't been to jail, I go easy on the swears and I have never beaten her. Give myself a big check for doing the minimum; keeping myself out of Hell and bragging about the obvious.
This is a good time to go back and re-read that sentence about my ego. We have read books, climbed trees, walked in the woods, roughhoused to the point of having her Mother yell at us to stop making all that noise (countless times), mastered the monkey bars, learned how to swim, shared quiet meals together. We hold hands, snuggle, rub noses like Eskimos, held long interesting talks at bedtime about the meaning of life (honestly I think that she's just doing her best to stay up longer).
Is all of that also just the minimum? In a Homer Simpson world of fat dads in sitcoms what is a good Father?
Yes, I know that there is no simple answer and yes I know that the simple answer is: asking yourself the question in the first place must mean I am moving in the right direction. Yes, I know that Fatherhood is a journey, not a destination. With all that said then why bother evaluating myself or writing on?
Zen proverbs "before enlightenment chop wood after enlightenment chop wood." That's my "why". Let's carry on.
I am present, I am occupied by life, hell I am even occupied by laziness and TV. I will share everything with her, I will give up my life for her but I am sure to eat the last piece of pizza. I will watch her sleep at night. Her tiny little chest rises and falls with each breath she takes. That experience alone is all the proof for God's existence that I will ever need. No matter how crazy a kid can kill your last never (and even your will to live) watching your baby sleep magically evaporates all the anguishes away, giving you the much need life-juice to get up in the morning and do it all again.
I come from good Fatherhood-stock. My Father and Grandfather are good men, husbands and dads. They are from a different time and a different culture of what it meant to be a Father. They were providers first, husbands second and fathers third. In no way did either of these men fall short. It was how culture dictated the importance of Fatherhood. In today's world, us Dads are doing it all (or at least doing our best to catch up to our Wives who are really doing it all).
To be a good Father, does that mean I must put myself third?
For me, yes it does. Not in a self-sacrificing way; remember I will eat that last slice of pizza, every time. In my heart, my family's happiness comes first. To watch my daughter and my wife live life to there fullest, that is my first place. Before anybody wants to Saint me read on (Note: this is written specifically to my wife. I have said the words "dream big and do the work" over and over but also remember that I am extremely cheap, seriously frugal, opening the wallet is hard for me, so to you I say “dream big but please goes easy on the dollars”.)
Multiple purpose parenting: Who knew it was possible?
I have come to discover that I can cut the grass, cook a meal and then put ponytails into my daughter's hair. Honestly I am not very good at ponytails, dinners or even picking out clothes that match, but, hey...she made it to eight. She can pick out her own clothes from now on.
As of late I find myself with other Fathers having conversations on this topic. Gone are the days of football and hot wings. Today we sip coffee and talk about the joys and insecurities of being a dad. I guess I would have to say this is a good starting point if you are asking yourself if you are a good Dad.
As I finish typing this, my daughter sits downstairs in front of the TV alone eating dinner. That happens at times. Remembering the words "A unique, irreplaceable role, and that's Fatherhood." I get up from my chair and go downstairs. Vecere’s word still resonate deep within me.
For me, I think I need to go chop more wood, enlightenment can wait.