Mothers have it easy. Their role has been proscribed since the beginning of time. They give birth. They nurture their young. They protect them, feed them and clothe them. Mothers insure their children become educated, go to church and learn healthy eating habits.
So what’s left for fathers to do? That’s why being a father is the hardest job in the world. We have no idea what the hell we’re doing. Can you understand how difficult it is to second guess every decision you make without letting on that you are doing exactly that – making a firm decision? Do you know how difficult it is to bend common sense to match your logic?
Even when we arrive at an answer we continue to analyze our decision for days later when everyone else has forgotten the situation but us.
Sometimes, rarely though it may be, the decision is simple. It’s logical and agrees with common sense. But that doesn’t make it any easier to sell to the masses if they have their heart set on another course. The paradox is that while a dad sometimes must douse a child’s wacky dream with a cold pitcher of reality, in truth, the dad really wants to do what the kid wants, too – because it sounds like fun!
A mom is like the strong pole in the center of the circus tent crucial to the stability of the structure and the well being of all inside. The dad is part ringmaster, part clown and part pole-dancer.
Where a mother’s basic instinct is to protect her children a father’s is to embarrass them as much and as often as possible. This can be accomplished easily and in a number of ways. Daughters’ boyfriends are always ripe pickings as are sons’ naked baby pictures trotted out for the fiancée. If you have ever requested your father stop the car two blocks from school you will understand. I have been most fortunate to have children allow me to drop them at the front door of the school, however, they never looked back. Good thing, too. The audience of the child’s peers is enough of a showcase for a dad to perform.
They say that at some point in life a father’s wisdom begins to sharpen in the eyes of his progeny, or at least it is hoped. I don’t know if I’ll fare as well. Playing both father and mother at one point exposed me for the charlatan I was. I have had the honor and challenge of being the prime nurturer, feeder, clothier, etc. The role is easy – the execution is tremendously difficult.
Mothers may watch a child grow up and leave home, but she remains secure in the knowledge that she will always be a part of their life. As a father I have always nurtured my children’s independence hoping they find their own way with the few values I’ve attempted to instill. I’m proud to say that just about all are on their merry way toward that end. But their way seems to send them farther and farther away, and while I watch them enjoy lives of their own I still vividly remember the moment I took that naked baby picture or sang to my daughter to have a fantabulous day as she bolted from the car into school. And I wish that for a moment we could return to that time for one more picture or one more song.
A dad must allow his children to sail away and avoid the temptation to keep a hand on the mooring line. He has to helplessly watch from shore as his offspring struggles with maturity just as he has done and continues to do.
There are decisions I made that I never expect my children to understand, unless, heaven-forbid, they are facing similar situations. Just as theirs does so also must life go on for father, and at some point self-preservation of sanity takes precedence. Status quo is fleeting and trying to keep it in stasis can bring one to tears realizing the futility. I may never truly deserve a mug emblazoned with “No. 1 Dad,” but it’s not for lack of trying.
On this Father’s Day, my best wishes are not for the dads but for those who survived a dad: the children who have put up with our foolishness and continue to do so; the children who only have memories of their dads who are gone now and who have elevated them to mini-sainthood – may they be blessed as well. And to those children yet to be born to newly-minted dads, I ask you to have patience with the new guy. He’s learning the ropes, and it’s going to take him a few decades before he has a clue – if he ever does.
Categories: What was I thinking?