Cheers to Sensible Fathers
I've been a father for six years now. I have the privilege of raising two smart and strong-willed little boys. My oldest is ten. We adopted him when he was four years old. My youngest is three. He was a surprise. A miracle, actually. To this day, the most delightful sound I have the joy of hearing is when either of them call out to me abruptly, often shouting, "Dad!" There's just nothing else like it. Not even the opening riff from Metallica's, "Battery," can compare. And that's hard to beat.
If you're like me, it's easy to admit that being a father is the most challenging and fulfilling journey I've ever been on. It's simultaneously harder and easier than I imagined it would be. Personally, given my experience with the man that was supposed to be my father, I was afraid that I wouldn't have it in me to do any of the things I've listed below. Yet, being a dad has unlocked something in my heart that brings the best out of me and causes me to feel an even deeper level of gratitude for my own life each day.
To be clear, the things I'm offering below are not things I've mastered. If anything, they are things that I remind myself to keep working on as I tumble my way back down the slippery slopes of the valley that all parents know as "too much" and "not enough" parental involvement.
If you're a new dad, experienced dad, soon-to-be-dad, or not a dad at all, if these things can help you relate to your children better, I'm grateful for that.
I've learned that one of the greatest things I can offer my children is my time. Because it's a fleeting resource that we can never get back, any amount of time spent with our kids (especially when they are small) is time well spent. However, I'm not merely advocating for quick, cameo appearances in their daily or weekly life. I'm suggesting that whenever possible, our kids would benefit from the ability to hear our voice, listen to our perspective, receive our care, and enjoy our affection. Being a father is a full-time job in it's own right. I often tell myself that I work two jobs. When my day-job is finished around 5pm everyday, it's time to punch-in for my evening shift with my children.
As important as being available might be, in a society that accepts digital forms of distraction and interruption as a normative aspect of our existence, it's crucial to go a step further with our children. They don't just need to be present with us; we need to be present with them. I can't tell you the number of times I've been staring at a screen and had one of my boys excitedly, or frustratingly, say, "Daddy! Look at me!" It seems like everytime I glance away from a screen to actually focus on my kids, they show me another facet of how quickly they are growing and maturing. I've also looked up to find them in some rather precarious or funny situations. Suffice it to say, our kids wouldn't have to demand our presence if we were willing to offer it more.
Despite what good might have been passed down to us from previous generations, there is one particular paternal trait that has probably done far more damage than it has good. It's the absurd stigma that men should neither embody or express vulnerability. I'm sorry, I just don't believe that our children need us to be a stoic vision of strength and toughness nearly as much as they need us to be tender and gentle with them. Sure, it's good for our kids to know that we are capable of protecting them, providing for them, and correcting them, but if that comes at the expense of receiving heartfelt affection from us, is that really a good trade-off? I'm convinced that two of the most powerful things we can say to our children are, "I love you," and when appropriate, "I'm sorry." I wonder how different our world would be if more fathers would be willing to fully and freely open our hearts to the impressionable little humans that learn how to live and love by our example?
I don't know about you, but I've gone through some dark and difficult times in life. I quickly learned that those times don't cease to exist just because you're a parent. If anything, being a father can compound the amount of grief, stress, fear, or anxiety you might experience in the midst of a difficult season. In those times, our kids don't need our perfection or a false projection of it. They need our resilience. They need us to resolve within ourselves to do whatever it takes to get through that season. They need us to work harder, to seek help, to take care of ourselves, to make the hard calls, etc. We don't have to be a vision of brute strength to our kids, but we should offer an example of humble resolve and grit.
Ultimately, to be sensible is to be responsible. When I consider what it means to be a sensible father to my children, I think of everything I should be modeling for them and teaching them. Of course, I need to make sure they know how to brush their teeth, tie their shoes, put their dirty clothes away, and so on, but I'm more greatly concerned with making sure they understand that their decisions come with consequences, that ALL people are to be treated equally and fairly, that anything worth pursuing is going to be hard work, and that they don't have to compromise their values or apologize for who they are, no matter who or what is pressuring them or influencing them to do otherwise.
I've spoken with a lot of guys that are yet to have children, and often, when they hear me talk about all of the time and energy that goes into being a father, they express how afraid they are that having children will in some way limit their freedom or put a damper on their pursuit of happiness. I tend to tell them all the same thing... being a dad most certainly comes with additional responsibility, but it also comes with a more beautiful and meaningful expression of freedom and happiness. I also make sure I flash them a smile as I say, "Being a dad is definitely hard work, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
So, cheers to all of the Sensible Fathers today. A day of celebrating who you are and what you do is well deserved. Keep up the good work!
Joseph serves as the Director of Marketing & Development for O'Douds and is the resident "Dad" on the team. You can follow him and his journey of fatherhood on Instagram at: @joseph_turner