My son’s 3rd birthday recently came and went, so I’ve found myself asking “What does ‘DAD’ mean?” Heck, I’ve ask myself that question often over the course of the last ~3-1/2 years–even before my son was born (or was a twinkle in my eye).
I’ve wondered (and still do):
- Am I going to be better then my dad or father were?
- Would I make the same mistakes (or make new ones)?
- Could I really place his needs before my own?
- Do I have the make-up to do “right” by him?
- How will I know the answers or be prepared for the tough questions/answers?
- How does one who spends all of life in thinking of one’s self place the needs of another first?
I wasn’t sure I had that in me. I was afraid that I didn’t. I was afraid that–like my parents–I would put my own needs/desires first.
In my parents’ defense, they weren’t bad parents. More often than not, they just made decisions based on their own personal wants, not taking into account the needs of their children. At the time, they may have believed it was best for everyone. And, of course, I have the luxury of seeing it as a matter of historical experience.
In considering what being a “dad” means, I know that I don’t want to make the same choices as those my parents did. I’m sure I will make mistakes, but they will be very different (at least, that’s my hope).
I look at my son, and I want to tell him:
I am your guide (along with your mother). Your guidepost. Your true North. It is our examples you follow through the rest of your life, an example of being a dad, a parent, a man and a human being.
Son, I hope that I am a good and decent example, for you.
A dad is a teacher and engineer, who teaches us to take things apart and see how they work. I want to give you an understanding of how and why things work–be it in explaining why the sky is blue or why you can’t be a T-Rex when you grow-up.
A dad is a favorite pal and The Sleep Police. I am the one you love to play with–be it Dino smash or superhero fight club. (By the way, it would be nice every now and then to be the “good guy” or the “winner” during one of these sessions). I’m the guy who patrols the halls to make sure you’re in bed–after your 100th restroom/drink/food break -stall tactic.
A dad is a counselor and medic. When you struggle with things, I need to make sure to help you understand why certain things happen. When you fall and hurt yourself, I make sure you’re ok. I make sure nothing is broken, give you a band-aid, and offer kisses (to you, they seem magical, and I wish my care really could take all your pain away).
It is in these ways (and so many others)–they’re all tied up in what I believe it means to be a dad. It would take a lifetime to quantify all the ways.
Only two things have any certainty–in this life, as a dad. I must prepare for change and I must be flexible. I am learning everyday (heck, every second of the day). But, I want to be the best dad/parent I can possibly be for you–not because I have too, but because I want to.
You may not know this, son, but you challenge me every day to do and be better than I was the day before.
So, what does being a dad mean to me? Well, the best answer I can give is: “I am not sure yet.”
Son, my role as your dad is (and always will be) ever-changing and evolving. I know, for me, you are my “true North.” As long as I follow that, I will always do right by you–not because I am doing what you want me to to do, but because I will be doing what is in your best interest.
“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ”