I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. What is my role as a father? Is being a Dad different than being a father?
I firmly believe the role of a father is to prepare our children for the real world so they will be fine when they venture out there, and so that they won’t need you when they become adults. So that when they make their inevitable mistakes they will have the knowledge and wisdom to recover quickly. (Note I wrote need. Hopefully, if I do my job right, they will still want to be around, will still ask for advice. But my job is to get them ready so they don’t have to.)
I also see myself as being a role model of how to live. Be firm but kind, work hard but take time to smell the flowers, take good care of yourself, your things, and the environment, and be there for both the important events and the not so important ones. But also help them understand that sometimes I can’t be there and explain why to them (work ethic and commitment). But try to do it in a really balanced way. Balance. Yes, balance.
My job is also to try and teach everything I’ve learned over the years, to make them self sufficient, strong, and independent people who can go it alone, but are willing and confident enough to ask for help. Who are comfortable on their own but who want the company of others. Who value honesty and integrity above almost everything else and who will push the limits of the rules, and of themselves. To make them people who respect the ideas of others, the experience of history, and who respect themselves.
If I’m able to achieve this I will consider my own life a success.
But what I’ve described so far is what I consider being a father. I think that being a Dad is something very different.
Being a Dad is about the softer skills of being a man. It’s about being comforting when they get hurt (Dad) along with a dose of “suck it up” (father). It’s about showing that a man can listen, can be compassionate, and can offer insightful advice while not being pushy. And it’s about taking the available information and not flip-flopping on making a decision, but knowing when you did make a wrong one and being willing to have your mind changed.
It’s about trying new things outside of your comfort zone and breaking down stereotypes (I make a mean plate of natchos and my pancakes are awesome), while still maintaining some of the traditional male role model (oil change anyone?). Balance.
I’m not great at many of these things. I’m much more on the “suck it up” side of things, and “I was wrong” is not the easiest thing for me say. But I’m trying, and hopefully my kids and wife see that. I hope the “softer” qualities will come easily for my kids but without making them “soft”. I hope that these qualities will be present in my son, and that my daughter will find someone who has these qualities present.
If I can be a Dad, in addition to being a father, no doubt I will consider my life a true success.
Thanks for reading.