It occurs to me that being cool while it's hot is the exact opposite of being a father. Generally while your kids are growing up, a father has to be in the thick of it. Sometimes it's great fun, out in the surf jumping waves with them. Then there are the times when it's not, like trying to pick the pieces from some incident that has gone terribly wrong.
Perhaps being a dad is doing whatever needs to be done, even if it isn't fun. Yet somewhere along the way, many things which are on the surface aren't very enjoyable become enjoyable just because your kids appreciate you doing them. We all know that getting kids to express appreciation can be a challenge, yet I keep close to my heart the idea that even when they don't immediately appreciate our efforts that someday they might look back and if nothing else smile because they find themselves doing the same thing that we did for them.
I really didn't get to know my father very well. I grew up with a strong mother amongst a very supportive extended family. My father had a stroke when I was young, and though he lived for many years, he really never was there for advice. I'm not sure sons ever find asking their fathers for advice very easy. These days with the help of google we fathers might even be on the road to irrelevance. Once the kids learn how to type a google query, who needs our advice especially since Google is much less demanding?
Yet there are benefits to being a father. Only rarely do I have to argue about who picks up the check. Our oldest daughter will sometimes snatch it from me, and I can remember my son doing it at least a time or two.
I usually get the first piece of a cake or pie since the rule seems to be that whatever is misshapen belongs to dad.
I can't ever remember anyone fighting me to mow the yard or take a car for service.
For a number of years, I was the mover of choice whether it was a monitor being carried up uncountable flights of stairs to a dorm room or a mattress that friends were going to help move if they hadn't gotten distracted by a party. Dad is usually there, waiting in the background, really to jump into action when needed. We don't need much encouragement, and we work for a smile which sure beats minimum wages.
Perhaps that's the most challenging part of being a dad. You stand back and watch your kids grow up. Sometimes they need help, and you know that giving a hand is the wrong thing to do, but it's still hard not to jump in with both feet when they need rescuing.
Then there are the times that you know that you have to get involved even though you aren't going to get thanks for doing it. It's a hard balancing act, knowing when to help and when to let them sink or swim on their own.
I'm reminded of my camera on the deck waiting for me to catch the right moment. I guess maybe that is it. Dads, if you're lucky, are there when you need them, and out of sight when things are going okay. You can always depend on them to try to help. Even if they might not be experts in what you need, dads are usually willing to give it try.
Of course sometimes dads make mistakes. They over estimate their skills, or stick their noses where they shouldn't be, but it's only done in the spirit of trying to help. When we sense that we can make a positive difference, a dad has to give it his best shot. If we try and fail, it's not because we don't love someone. We are willing to risk humiliation or whatever because we do love our kids and will do practically anything for them, including things we should probably leave for the experts.
Perhaps what we dads want most is to be a tiny part of our kids' lives after they leave home. A phone call once in a while makes a huge difference to the old man. You don't have to divulge any secrets, you can even just talk to mom. Give her just enough information so we can stay off high alert and relax a little.
Our aging eyes on the world might not be as precise as the lens of my Nikon digital camera, but they are pretty good at recognizing the needs of our children, who no matter how old they get, will still always be our children.
And on this once a year treat for us dads, it's nice to be remembered in whatever way that happens.
Since this is father's day, here's the advice I wrote for my kids last July in "Some Advice To My Kids."
What good is father's day if you can't pontificate a little?