Okay, so I am now a week (almost two!) late, but that seems to be in keeping with my schedule lately. DADuary Week 1’s question was: Who or what has caused you to become the type of dad you are? How has this helped you grow as a man and husband?
I suspect that the standard, or perhaps cliche, answer is that I learned from my father. More specifically, I learned from him, my father-in-law and countless other military men that I was influenced by growing up and on my own road to fatherhood. May father was in the Army for 34 years. My wife’s father was a Marine for 20 years. I had the opportunity to grow up on military bases all over the world and come to learn important lessons about duty, but also about sacrifice. It is the latter lesson that has resonated with me so much.
When K and I talk about our respective childhoods, people are often struck first by how often we moved. Moving every three years (or less), changing schools, leaving friends behind and constantly starting over strike people as the worst way to have grown up. I loved it then, and have never regretted it. The second point people pick up on is the absence of our fathers at various points in our lives.
K was recently talking to someone about how her father had missed her 16th birthday. To us, it was just something that happened, the person hearing the story was amazed. Looking back on all the absences, the missed holidays, my dad living in another city (or being holed up in a missile silo somewhere), I am shocked to think that I had never thought of his side of it all. You (or your listener) hone in on the fact that they weren’t there at some auspicious event. But, all reflection is on how this effected you.
This puts so much in perspective for me. I get completely stressed out when I have to miss something that the boys have deemed important, be it a soccer game or just story time before bed. Thinking now of the decisions our fathers had made for them (i.e. one must remember that they probably never once chose to miss something) I am horrified to think about having to make those choices myself. Like so many, of course, they became fathers after they became military men, so it wasn’t like they new from the start that they would be called away from concerts, birthdays, etc. I realize now how important dad-time must have been to them, and how much it probably hurt as I got older and chose a friend over them.
Thinking about this generally made me realize what this post would be about. I am emulating my father in much of my interaction with my kids, without even realizing it. I come home days and will put off everything until I have had a chance to sit down with them, ask them about their day and get some inkling of what change has happened in their lives since I last saw them. One day M learned that people were once judged by the color of their skin (a fact he still finds baffling), C learned what a stepfather was. They both starting learning how to play volleyball last week in school which brings them closer to their mother. It could be little or it could be amazing, but I want to know about it.
I am a sucker for storytime. The slightest bit of begging will get me to read another chapter (often nights until I’m getting hoarse). I’ll go outside and play catch even when all I want to do is become one with the couch. If I have a chance to take them out by myself, out we will go (although more and more I am cutting into something else). Dad time may be diminishing in value to them, but is still precious to me. I drag myself out of bed each morning to be able to have breakfast with them before we all go our separate ways (even if they are not the best morning conversationalists).
You could, if effect, just say I am trying to be a good dad. I’m not doing anything special. I have obligations outside of home and will miss some things that I will regret or that will hurt their feelings. I am teaching responsibility. I am teaching remorse. I have learned responsibility and I have learned regret. My dad was not always there. My dad was not always perfect. He was, however, a good dad. And that’s what I am striving for.