We all need close friends who are brutally honest with us. Years ago, my friend Karen gave me the best critique about my writing, “Each piece, no matter how much you love it, no matter how good you think it is, it’s almost twice as long as the average person wants to read.” Get it under 800 words or no one is ever going to read your stuff!”
Sitting down to write about good dads, that advice is the first thing that came to mind. I’m pretty sure I could write half a book about what a good dad does and another half just bragging about how great my biological kids are.
Don’t get me started about the kids I’ve claimed as my own. But then, I think maybe that’s one of the least discussed and most important parts of being a good dad: We’re not just that way to our own, or to other people’s kids, we’re that way to the kids who don’t have anyone to make a card for on Father’s Day.
That’s a good man at his best.
Everyone has a father. Only the lucky ones get a dad.
Maybe the average good dad is just doing what their dad did. The men I most admire are giving what was denied to them. They’re kinda nuts. They’re the guys good women have to reign in because maybe playing in the tree house for the entire afternoon is enough and we can go do some adult things now?
It’s a positive addiction – you can just never do enough. You throw a hundred thousand baseballs, footballs, basketballs and the kiddo takes all the shots. You show up to all the school functions and all the recitals and it kills you when work makes it impossible to get to a game. You play the board games, the video games, and you make countless blanket forts and even when you do all that stuff, it doesn’t feel like enough.
You’re still afraid you’re going to screw it all up.
The absence of a problem does not give the assurance that a fearful dad needs. No matter how great my kids kept turning out, I was never less afraid. When I finally went to therapy, my therapist suggested that I could relate to myself as I did my kids.
I thought she was nuts at the time, but she was profoundly right. You don’t have to change how you feel to change how you act. Just respect yourself as you do other good men and know that not only are your efforts enough, but that you are enough.
When you’re trying to redeem yourself for other people’s sins, you should know that there is no scorecard and that you’re not just going to wake up one day feeling better. It’s okay to relax and not work so hard, but nobody tells you that except your exasperated wife. Even if she’s a great mom, you’re not likely to accept her as an authority on being a good enough dad.
Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. So, do that. Do the basics: Take a genuine interest in your kids. Encourage them. Make them believe that anything is possible for them. Be their biggest fan. Tell them you love them and hug them every day. When they break your heart somewhere in their adolescence about how incredibly embarrassing you are as a parent, know that they will come back around in their 20’s.
It’s ok if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Truth is, parenting is the toughest job in the world and there’s no training or instruction manual. Find a man you admire and ask whatever you need to know. If you don’t have one: firstname.lastname@example.org