“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong” – Charles Wadsworth
It’s probably impossible to truly understand or appreciate the many sacrifices a parent makes when you’re a child, however once we grow up, (usually with children of our own) we can begin to respect the endless amount of time and work required to raise just one child, let alone four, (like in my family growing up).
Last week I found myself reflecting on my childhood and how I was shaped by my parents. Like many of you, I can recall good memories of being nurtured by my mother from the fond affection, and provided for by my father, always attempting to make sure I had what I needed. I can also recall moments of disappointment, being let down and hurt by them both. I cannot imagine any kid that wouldn’t have similar feelings or experiences growing up. It’s all a part of experiencing what I would call a normal childhood, where most of my essential needs were met on a regular basis.
The clinical definition of a functional family.
Today I want to take a moment to discuss something that unfortunately we don’t hear enough about., and that is what my father did, for me. That is not to say my mother was not an awesome mom, because she was, but today my inspiration lies in what attributes my father instilled in me as boy. Attributes that still impact me as a man today. From the talks about what I should never do, to the examples of what it truly looks like to be a man who is resourceful, disciplined and a hard worker. I could never pay my father back for the things he has done for me. I only know to take the things that I have learned from him and with wisdom, apply them to my life now.
I was fourteen when my parents split up. It was a sad day for the entire family, but by the grace of God we made it through. Sure we had our struggles, and as a young teenager, I didn’t understand everything but looking back today I realize even when I didn’t see my dad everyday, it was as if he was there with me. What he was able to instill in me up to that time proved to be the life skills I so desperately needed to be successful, focused and smart. Again, this is not to negate the significant work that my mother diligently committed to, day after day, but there is something about the strength of a father that is almost like the reigns placed on a horse that has the potential to go astray. A father (at least my father), provides a sense of balance, gives a sense of purpose and commands attention like no other authority figure can. When done correctly and appropriately, deep inside the psyche of that growing child resides a respect, (not fear) a confidence (not arrogance) all intertwined with a sense of purpose and direction at its core, that will inherently set a precedent for what lies ahead in his/her life. I’m not certain if my father ever knew what I would actually become in life, so he didn’t spend time trying to equip me to do one thing well. He taught me everything that he knew with excellence, like baking and cooking, yard-work, fishing, car maintenance and generally working with my hands and using my brain to think. Skills that I still use everyday. In that, he helped to create a leader in me that believed he could do anything he wanted.
I find this missing is so many teens today, especially boys.
The fathers missing in action, have assisted in the retarding of a generation of would be capable leaders.
Now, with effective intervention (like mentoring) I’m hopeful that many of these young people will ultimately get on the right track, but this requires so much work and resources. Resources that are typically in great demand and low supply, therefore only a select few will ever benefit. The rest, the majority, struggle, sometimes for the remainder of their lives. What a sad testimony! Unless the many mothers, left alone to raise their children have other positive male role models or mentors that can step in to fill the voids left by the MIA father, these young people are forced to find their desperate need for affirmation, mutual respect and a sense of belonging from the streets and negative media and influences that do not have their best interest in mind. Hence, where many of our gangs thrive.
No matter what our upbringing was like, one thing is true, we all require to belong to something, and this need will be fulfilled by any means necessary.
For us the questions becomes obvious. What will that something be? We see the answers in many forms of news media daily.
Remaining true to what this blog is about, which is speaking the TRUTH in love, I can’t say every part of my relationship with my father was perfect or that we always got along, even as an adult. For years I struggled with being able to communicate with my father. We even went years without speaking to one another. I’m not proud of it, but that was our reality and through it I learned many things about him as well as myself. A turning point for us after reading further, you will find intertwined in my earlier descriptions of being a parent.
One sunny afternoon, my father and I agreed to meet at a local restaurant in the Bay Area. I remember the day was warm where we were both coming from, because we dressed like it was summer (which it was). But if you’re from the Bay Area you know that we have many micro-climates. I left my house and it was 90-degrees, and by the time I arrived at our destination 30 miles later, it was also 30-degrees cooler! That, I was not prepared for, but what was in stored for that evening would totally change my life and my relationship with my father to this day. Being cold would come to mean nothing that special evening. You see this was not the first time for my dad and I to speak and attempt to break through “that thing” that kept us distant and on constant guard with one another. We commenced to eat our meal and make small talk, and just when I thought the night was going to end in typical fashion for us, my father said something that broke every guard I had up. After explaining to him some of my issues and concerns with him as a kid, he didn’t make any excuse or give me a lame apology, he simply asked, “Son what did I do that was so horrible?” Before I could get out my answer, which I cannot say I had one at that time, he made another statement that has forever put him in my “all time hero category”.
He said, “In my best efforts to teach you, I neglected to put my arms around you or on your shoulder when you fell short of my desired goal”.
In that very moment in time, everything that I was angry with my father about immediately left me. I had no defense for what he said, for it was truly an act of love and humility. For that I am forever grateful.
I am grateful for a father that loved his son enough to admit when he was wrong and to apologize versus make excuses. I am grateful that he became the leader between us two in that moment, and again set an example for me to follow with my own children. I am grateful that I can share this story with the world about a man, (my Father & Dad) who is still very much vibrant and alive today. So too often the example of a great life is shared at a eulogy. Today I want to give my father his flowers while he is yet alive. Thank you dad for all that you are. You were not a perfect father and you made your mistakes as a man, but through each situation I have inherited a life lesson that makes my life richer and far better than if I had never went through it at all.
It is fathers like you that forge boys into men.
You are the father that did the right thing regarding your children. Thank you. I am forever grateful.
I realize every story will not end like mine did and I am not attempting to over simplify a very complex issue within our society, but we must all begin somewhere. I say start where my father did, and take responsibility for who and what belongs to you.