I am not very comfortable with Father’s Day. After eleven years of being a father, I still feel like I have absolutely no clue what I am doing. I am just trying to make sure I do not screw my boys up too bad. I am not sure I want a day that puts a spotlight on what I am doing here. I kind of want to just fly under the radar, keep the explosions to a minimum, limit visits to the ER, and not have kids that embarrass me in public. I really do not need an entire day focusing on that job that I am muddling through. However, for some unknown reason, I was asked today about what my one big take-away has been from being a father. This is how I answered.
I never, ever want my children to look at me and say, “I want to be just like my dad when I grow up.” That is setting the bar way too low. They can be better than me. The do not have to settle for what they see in me today.
Children are incredibly perceptive. They know that I struggle with putting other first. They know that I can be quick-tempered. They know that I can be selfish and demanding. They know that I have a personality that pushes people away. They know I can be slow to forgive. They know other flaws that I probably am blind to. If they look at me and see a 41-year old man who is perfectly comfortable living with those shortcomings, I have given them permission to be comfortable with their shortcomings. I have told them that it is OK to stop improving. I do not want this.
I want them to look at me and see a 41-year-old man who does a lot of things of right, but is always working to improve. I want them to see a father who recognizes where he falls short, acknowledges these shortcomings and continues to work on them no matter how many times he fails. I want them to see a father who is a little bit better than he was yesterday, which was a little better than he was last year. There is no end point.
I never want my children to view me as a finished product to which they should aspire. I want them to see a fallible man who is continuing to improve as a person, as a husband, and as a father today, when I am fifty, and when I am eighty. Quite frankly, I want my grandchildren to see that.
I never want James and Ben to look at me and say, “I want to be just like my dad when I grow up.” I want them to say, “I want to work as hard as my dad because he has never stopped trying to be a better person. I always want to move forward like he does.” That would make me happy.
Happy Fathers’ Day to everybody.