I’m a single dad to six wonderful children, only two of whom live with me 50% of the time. And while I’m a proud and devoted father, this is not where I thought my life would be at age 52. Two failed marriages and six children struggling to make sense of it all, expressing their own doubts about whether or not they will ever marry. Even my 12 year old son has already told me he is not getting married; “Why bother,” he said. “They all end in divorce!” It’s so sad to me that my son would even contemplate these thoughts at such an innocent and tender age.
My 26 year old son, who came to live with me full-time at age 12 when my marriage to his mother ended, said to me one day, “Dad, I need to tell you something.” Let me assure you: when any of your children make that statement, you hold your breath until you’ve heard the next few lines! “I don’t want your life,” he continued. Chilling but honest words that I will never forget. He went on to say he did not know if he would ever marry, and that if he did, whether or not he would have children. What a tragedy it would be if no child ever knew this man as his father! A more loving, kind, compassionate person never existed than my son Taylor. I can only hope that what they say is true: the apple never falls far from the tree. I looked my son in the eyes, admiring the guts it took to say that to his father, and said, ” Taylor, I don’t know that I wanted my life, but I have made the most of it. And if you can look at me and honestly and say what you just did, I know I’ve done part of my job.”
You see, as we all know, kids model their behavior after what they see others do, and their parents are the logical actors they will try to emulate. To be fair, “actor” is not really an inaccurate word here. How many parents go through the motions day after day after day, dealing with their own pain and feelings of isolation and despair, hopefully not letting their children see the truth behind the mask?
As I was checking out at the grocery store early this morning – I needed a few things to pack lunches – I started chatting with the cashier, as we all do to pass the time until the bags are packed. As she was sliding the items down the conveyor belt, I hastily loaded everything into my grocery bags, the reusable ones we buy to do our little part in saving the environment. She thanked me for packing the bags as she totaled my order. It was then that I said, “no problem, a dad’s work is never done!” Her response was not offensive and did not have a tone of indifference but it was, based on my experience, very typical, if not a little sexist. She looked up at me, almost in disbelief, and responded, ” it’s a mom’s job that is never done.” It was not meant to throw down the gauntlet and start a debate in the grocery store, but it was intended to make me think that I really had no clue what it was like to be a mom (or, quite frankly, an involved dad)!
It is not expected that a dad can put his daughter’s hair in a ponytail, or pick out and buy her Christmas dress, or have her friends over to bake cupcakes! No malice here, but no credit either. There are good dads and bad dads, as well as good and bad moms; let’s not judge based on gender, but on merit, experience, commitment, and devotion. I adored my mom, and I mourn her passing every day. She was the rock for me and my late brother after our parents divorced when I was 10. My dad loved us and did his best with the tools he was given. He passed away in 1991, a broken, penniless man apologizing for his mistakes. He made his peace with God, and I have no doubt he is in Heaven now, probably shooting pool! I’m left with few fond memories of him, but one of those stands out: he was meticulously clean and would never hesitate to get down on his knees to scrub a dirty floor. Maybe Dad gave me that gift. Maybe that was my apple.
Give Dad some credit!