Saturday, June 25, 2005

On Being A Dad and Being A Son

This weekend is my weekend to celebrate Father’s Day. The STBX had called me and asked me if I would be willing to switch because she had not realized that Father’s Day and her parent’s anniversary were on the same day. She had several relatives flying in for the celebration and since I did not have anything planned I agreed to take my son this coming Sunday instead of the 19th. I don’t really believe she didn’t make the connection, especially since Father’s day is one of the holidays specifically spelled out in the visitation agreement, but it didn’t cost me anything to switch, and there was no reason not to, so I did. A “thank you” would have been really nice, though. I called my father and made some plans to spend the day with him – I’m planning to bring some supplies with me and cook some dinner. I’m actually a very good cook and I know my dad will appreciate the surprise dinner.

I like to think I’m a great dad – but on the off chance I’m not up to some of the challenges of the future I’ve hedged my bets. I’ve got a great guidebook. It’s called Father to Son (Life Lessons on Raising a Boy). I keep it on my desk at home and take it off the shelf every so often because it’s so moving to read. I could do a lot worse than follow the advice of this book.

The first section is called The Five Keys. It starts with a couple of paragraphs:

Turning a boy into a man is a man’s job. Since the beginning of time, it’s been up to a father to make his son responsible. Kind. Courageous. Honorable.
A young boy doesn’t come with instructions. He just comes with boundless love and an adventurous spirit. But the journey to manhood begins very early… the first time he looks at his dad and thinks, “I want to be like him.”

I pray that my son looks at me and thinks that. The Five Keys are:

  1. Be around. I’ve got this one covered, even though I’ve had to fight to get the time.
  2. Be his father, not his friend. If you don’t understand the difference, imagine his confusion when you must discipline him. This is the hardest job of a non-custodial parent, at least in my opinion. You want every moment with your child to be happy, and that’s just not possible.
  3. Be a good husband. Show his mom respect at all times. I can’t do this one anymore, but someday, I hope I can show him the way men and women are supposed to treat each other.
  4. Be home for dinner. I can’t do this one either, but I can be with him for dinner sometimes. This is where I need to be creative.
  5. Be his hero. I think I already am, what a feeling.

I’m lucky that I can call upon some of the things my dad did when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was ten, and there were a number of years that I didn’t really get to see him that often. In that time I found myself measuring other kid’s dads against mine. Even though I didn’t see him that often not one dad ever beat him out. My dad was always the smartest and best dad around. I’m one of those rare kids who never believed that he knew more than his father – my dad was always that hero I want to be for my son. I want to make sure my son sees the relationship I have with my dad, the love I have for him.

Sometimes I don’t feel worthy to be this little boy’s dad – he’s as close to the perfect child as I’ve ever seen. Is this how my dad thought about me? Did he cry when he missed me? Did he worry about all the dangers the world has to offer a child?

This Sunday I have to make sure I get all of this across to my dad. I want him to know that he was my hero growing up – he got me through some of the difficult times even though all I had standing next to me was his memory. I’m a lucky man. My dad is the best dad I could have had – I just wish I could have realized just how good he was a lot earlier.