Being the best dad

No one can give sound advice on parenting unless they first evaluate themselves and where they came from. We must study, research, discuss, debate, and not forget our origins and bias.

At the time of this writing, my father is 87 years old and has more energy than most 30-year-olds. He does not believe in retirement and has a huge work ethic. Every day it is a challenge to conquer and a war to be won. If purpose keeps you going, he will outlive most of us.

A lot of people talk about their dad. We want our dad to be a hero, or remembered as such. We want to be proud of them as much as we want them proud of us. Some of you got this in life. Many others did not. There is a huge difference between a biological father and a dad, at least in my mind. While some were fortunate to have a role model for how to “dad right”, others must learn from bad examples…knowing what “not” to do.

I am one of those fortunate enough to have a good example to draw from. Please noticed that I said “good”, not perfect. Dad has many flaws. He has made and will make plenty of mistakes. Let me give you an example.

I was the only boy of five children. I was also the youngest. That’s right…I had five moms. Needless to say, dad wanted me to be tough. This meant pushing toughness on me whether it be physically, emotionally, or even medically. I was and am allergic to beans, specifically pinto beans. I had a very strange reaction. My throat would close up a bit, but the worst part was that I would get immense cramping in my back. Dad thought that my bean allergy was all in my head, so he decided to slip a spoonful of refried beans into the meat he was preparing for tacos. He wanted to be able to tell my mother and myself that it was psychosomatic. After my throat closed up and I went to the floor with back cramps, he figured out two things. He learned that he was wrong and that my mother still had her temper from her youthful days.

One other time I was playing soccer. Dad was our coach. During a game, an opponent player and I both kicked the ball and /or each other. My big toe snapped. It was the final moments of the game. I yelled at my dad that I could not kick with my left foot. He yelled back, “then use your right foot”. After the game, the swelling began to go up to my ankle. Once he saw it, he had to tell my mother. After a trip to the ER, getting my shoe cut off, and getting a CAST, we went home. That was the quietest ride we ever had in the car.

Dad’s don’t always get it right. Mine didn’t always get it right. That’s not the point. Upon my self-examination of my role model as well as myself, I am convinced that dad did do his best. He was there. He loved and supported me. You can love and support someone and still screw up. I see that in my own rearview mirror as a dad. Oh my gosh, I have wanted to crawl under a rock after getting it wrong. Apologizing and asking children for forgiveness is one of the most humbling things that I and my father have ever done. You as a dad are supposed to have the “right” answers. You are supposed to be the solution to their problems, not the source of their frustrations or trouble.

My question to you is, do you love your kids enough to screw up…what? Let me take you back to soccer. This was my sport growing up. Fortunately, I did well enough to have the knowledge to help my kids get going. They turned out to be much better than me. Anyway, If you know anything about soccer, let me turn your attention to defense. If you are an aggressive defender, you will on occasion foul someone in the box, or score an “own goal” for the other team. It happens when you are trying your best. You will screw up as a dad when you are trying your best.

Throwing yourself in the line of fire for your kids is honorable, but you can also land on them…hurting them. Do you get the picture? If you commit all you are, you are still committing a fallible human being to them. Going all in means accepting that you won’t be perfect. Guess what, your kids won’t be perfect either.

In Summation,  I’m still evaluating the man in the mirror as well as my aging father. We have discussions and debates on many issues, just as I do with my now grown children. We both believe that being a dad is the greatest job in the world. We also believe that it has been the most difficult job we have ever done.

Being a dad is a lifelong pursuit. Whether you are observing your role models, have little children, or are an empty-nester…you are always learning. You can be “the champ”, but never undefeated. I do not know the perfect dad. I know the greatest one. He is 87 years old and is still learning.

Cast pride aside and learn. Love your kids enough to screw up. When you do screw up, get up and begin again. All we can do is find the starting point. Where do we go from here? Let’s start with our commitment. I hope you will join me on this journey and share this with those that may benefit from it.