I'm ashamed to admit I didn't appreciate my Dad as much as I should've in my younger years, the selfish feelings of my immaturity keeping me from getting what he put on the line to raise us.
Here was this man working 70 to 80 hours a week to provide for his family, rarely seeing his kids, keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, doing everything he could to be the best father possible. All this without a solid template to work from as far as fatherhood goes — while my family shares little of history or feelings, I understand the grandfather I never got to meet wasn't exactly winning many parenting awards.
But for all the headaches my brothers and I caused, all the doubts and worries he must've had but dared not show lest society brand him weak, my dad saw it through, raising me until I was ready to have a son of my own, finally understanding a bit of where he was coming from all those years.
So Dad, here's to you — a few things I've learned from fatherhood so far, all thanks to having a father to help show me the way:`
1. You love 'em even if you don't always like 'em
I love my son. He's one of the cutest beings known to the history of humankind, and I'd do just about anything for him. I let him ride me like a horse, put food in my hair, feed me random stuff I usually wouldn't touch after the things he's done to them... it's all in the name of fun, and I rush home to see him for a couple of hours every day.
But there's also the other side — the temper tantrums. Playing with all sorts of things he shouldn't. I don't know if you've ever tried reasoning with a year-and-a-half old kid, but let me tell ya — that just ain't gonna fly.
Though there are moments he makes me want to pull my hair out, he's a lovable kid. (But I do kind of love my hair right where it is, though.)
2. I don't know everything, but I know more than you.
My kid can barely string a sentence together, but I can say with confidence that he definitely knows the difference between right and wrong.
And he chooses "wrong" often, with an impish smile on his face just to let me know it's intentional.
We all have those phases growing up where we think we know everything, convinced we won't make the same mistakes as our parents because we're so much better. When my kid freaks out over the extra snack I won't let him have, while he knows he wants it that moment, I'm the one who knows he'll pay the price if he doesn't have enough room for a delicious dinner that'll satisfy him more than any snack every would.
While I know I have plenty more to look forward to as this little guy grows older, I'd like to think I'm ready to take him on. With my best friend Google ready to assist just in case.
3. "This is for your own good" and "because Daddy said so" are completely legitimate reasons.
The brains of children and their parents are hardwired completely differently.
Children think their parents old and boring, existing solely to stop them from having fun with their rules, advice and curfews. Parents are at the other end of the tunnel, speaking from their own experiences, successes and failures, not wanting to see their kids make the same missteps they did.
But you're their parent, not their friend, and oftentimes the respect demanded of that role means you can't easily share those stories, much as you might want to.
So in moments of forced vagueness, you fall back on the old classics, because let's face it — even when kids don't want to do things, as their parent, it's your job to make them do it.
Don't worry, they'll thank you for it later. Maybe.
4. I need to ready you for the world... and it's not always a nice place.
"This will hurt me more than it hurts you."
While I don't dare to lay a hand on my son, I know there'll be times I'm going to have to punish the kid. Right now it's stashing a toy away or snatching him up when he gets a little too reckless, but know it'll eventually be keeping him from friends that are bad influences or admonishing him for sneaking out to go somewhere he knows he shouldn't be.
Yes, we still make bad judgment calls as adults, but we make so many more when we're younger because we have way more time to get ourselves in trouble.
My approaches won't always be popular, but at least they'll keep him safe until he's old enough to experience the world — both good at bad — for himself.
5. I don't want to be a better father than my dad — I want to love my son just as much as my dad loves me.
Ultimately, when it comes to fatherhood, Father's Day and everything concerned with raising this little reasonable facsimile of myself, it takes me back to the man who taught me what it means to raise a kid right. A man who I've literally only seen shed a tear once but taught me that dads can have emotions and be no less masculine for it. A man who couldn't always be around for all the track meets and award ceremonies filling the schedule of an overachieving teen — but was one of the first to celebrate with me on my successes.
Every parents shows love in their own way — the best way they know how — but it's all for the sake of raising a generation who can handle their world and everything it's going to throw at them.
Thanks, Dad — you did great. I finally get it.