August 19, 2022

What Does It Mean To Be Dad?

Father and children on a walk

Rubbing my oldest son’s head last night, as he went to sleep for his first night as an eight year old, my thoughts wandered—am I really the dad that I want to be?

Each of us watches our parents and grandparent (and sometimes other people’s parents) and we observe what we like and do not like about how they parent—the things that “we’re never going to do” and the things that we would do better.  The strange thing is that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we end up doing those same things unintentionally.

Wanting Dad Involved

For me, one of the things that I thought I could do better than my dad was that I can remember vividly the number of times I wanted my dad to be part of the outside baseball games we had in the front yard.  We had these nearly every day, and with the addition of my neighbor from across the street, the three of us and one of him would battle—but it was always better when Dad played too.

He was better at catching the fly balls.  You knew he could hit the homerun.  You knew that eventually he’d throw you a funny pitch—or at least that he was capable of getting it over the plate.

But that was when he played, and many days after work he simply wanted to crash; however, now I understand why.  It takes a lot out of you, even you have a mostly mental job, to work all day and then to keep that energy level up when you get home.  It’s not always possible.

And I see my failings in smaller ways—the time when my kids want to play Wii, or they want to sit and make comics, or do something else where I just want to veg out and not be responsible for a little while.

It’s difficult, and yet patting my son’s head as he drifted off to sleep, I found myself again wishing I could be that dad that I wanted to be for him and his siblings.

Our Society Is Different

I’m coming under the idea that part of this feeling of duty comes from the fact that the way that families are organized today is not the way that they’ve always been.  If you were to ask someone what the traditional family structure was, they would probably answer something about a dad that works, a mom that stays home, and kids.  However, that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

You see, for many thousands of years before modernization, it was much more typical to have a mom and dad on a family farm and dad would be the one that spent a majority of time with his boys—teaching them things around the farm.  Every day was “bring your kid to work day.”

Reading A Generation of Men Raised By Women, one quickly gets the impression that men have lost or given away much of their former responsibility.  It’s easy, then, to see why women are now facing more stress than they originally were intended to have.

Men usually were the educators, the ones tasked with teaching and helping to bring up the young.  Now, the mother is left with most of the responsibility.

And so, I think that this feeling is normal, and instead of just letting it stay a feeling, I feel I need to redouble my efforts to have the energy that I need to be the dad that my kids need.  I’ve already begun attempting them to train them in the things that I know and that I do, and I’ve tried to help be a part of their education as well with the time that’s available.

It’s important to be there.

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