What Is A Good Father?
Or Should It Be: How Do I Become A Good Father?
As a father of five, and more specifically as my kids are no longer children but young adults, the type of relationship and advice I can give is far different than what it was ten years ago.
They are now making their own decisions; some very good ones and others only time will show. I have made mistakes just like they will make and own their own.
So I have been thinking about what it takes to be a father, and to do this, instead of reading articles, how-to books or even what others have said or are saying on fatherhood, I fall back on my own experience.
This takes me many years back in time and what it meant being a son and why I always knew my father was a good father - the best I could have.
One way of re-living the feelings I had is describing the way he was. How he was never afraid of showing his feeling to us, his children; how proud we were to carry his surname; his humor, his stories - even when his disciplined us (we always felt he was fair); the good, the bad and the ugly. As memories start to flash back even his smell, his laughter and his voice are present.
But somehow it doesn't feel right - it fails to conjure up a complete person. Its like I am dissecting him and the whole was always much larger than the parts.
And then I remembered a feeling and from there a moment in time we brothers shared. And this does give me an answer to my question.
How To Have A Favorite Child
When I was 15 or so, a year after he died, my sister, my brothers and I (one girl, three boys) were in the kitchen one evening. It was one of those rare moments when we felt totally at peace with each other, sharing deep thoughts and feelings.
It was a perfect moment and it got even better. I think it was my sister who reminded us that our father had always treated us equally and never shown any favoritism. This had always made us feel really good about him and ourselves, and it was precisely the sort of thing we were careful not to challenge in case anyone of us was hurt.
And then one of us, actually me, decided to share something.
I told them that when we were together, fishing, driving or whatever, I always knew that I was the favorite. Everybody started talking at once, and I realized that I had crossed a forbidden line. And then I it came to me that nobody was angry or hurt - instead they were all repeating exactly the same thing.
Each one of us had always known, deep down in our hearts, that he or she was his favorite child.
And that, as far as I am concerned is how to become a good father - be there 100% with your child, when you are with him or her.
A Father´s Job
Each living person, each child is unique. We all go through a series of stages - baby, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult ... and maturing.
For every stage, being a father, demands a different set of skills. Sometimes you are inspired and at others you are not.
Often your own emotional response comes to the fore instead of empathy and understanding.
- You will have to be severe; you will have to be kind.
- You will listen, you will bond.
- You will ignore; you will teach.
- You will inspire and perhaps receive an unexpected response.
- It is impossible to apply your fathering techniques as for a recipe.
But what you can do is to always remember your job, and that is:
"To help your child turn into the best adult he or she can be."
If you have that goal in mind even your mistakes will turn out for the best.
And a little luck splashed with lots of love and patience will always help.
Words of Wisdom - from Father to Son
It is funny, in a peculiar way, that as time passes by, you tend to remember things you thought were forgotten. Among these things were some pearls of wisdom that my father shared at times when as a child I was frustrated, worried or just wanted to hear his voice.
Here are a few of these that have been with me for many years.
I had a problem at school once and was very frustrated. I think it had to do with a friend, and how we were growing apart. Of all the things he could have said, this has stayed with me since...
"A problem, by definition, has a solution. Find the best one and apply it. If there is no solution, there it is no problem. It is a fact. Learn to accept it and know the difference".
- "It is alright to be afraid! Just remember a coward dies a hundred deaths; a hero only once".
- "The important things you do today will have results many years from now. Think things through".
- "Whatever you choose to do (as a profession), no matter what it is, strive to lift it up into an art form".
- "Love is a decision that has to be updated daily - and that is one of the wonders of life. You should work at it every day".
Final Thoughts on Fatherhood
There are many tips and recipes for fatherhood.
But in the final count I remind myself that just as the point of parenting is to guide our children to be the best version of themselves, our personal job is to become the best version of ourselves in all the things that matter, including being a father.