Most of what I read about Father’s Day is written from the viewpoint of appreciating dads, which I guess is appropriate. But I want to mention what it has meant to me to BE a dad, and how it has enhanced my life.
Being a dad is the best job I’ve ever had.
As any parent knows, there are numerous challenges to raising a child, in the form of time, money and attention, among others.
One invests time, money and attention (and love) in the relationship, with the hope that that investment will bear fruit.
For me, the opportunity to really deeply get to know and take responsibility for another human being has been an extraordinary honor, unlike any relationship I’ve ever had.
A father really becomes an expert on their child, just as the child becomes an expert on the father.
When you become an expert on someone, in a loving relationship, your observation of them becomes a wonderful hybrid of scrutiny and infatuation.
Perhaps because he was a troubled spirit, I became an expert on my father in this way. I remember peppering my childhood conversations with my dad with names of musicians, actors and other cultural figures from my father’s generation, (that I really didn’t know) just so I could communicate with him better.
(I notice that Taylor has become an expert on me, and what makes me laugh. She’s really good at that.)
Childhood is a confusing period in anyone’s life.
When Taylor was growing up, I was keenly aware of how confusing life could be from her point of view, and tried to find ways of explaining things to her in a way that would dispel those confusions.
A child has to begin to make their own decisions as soon as possible (that’s what the parent should be training them to do) and the only times they generally make poor decisions is when they lack all the information; the parent can help by providing true information about stuff.
For some things Google isn’t the best place to turn. You need a parent.
I soon found that if Taylor had things explained to her, she would make perfectly good choices, ones that didn’t get us into fights. I learned that she and I were in agreement on most things, (except maybe the need to eat protein) and, with her mother, we developed an easy partnership.
(I remember one time I failed to come up with a good explanation; we were awakened to the big L.A. earthquake of 1994, and I struggled to come up with the illuminating words, “The earth…uh,…moves.”)
There’s not a lot of difference basically between the goals of parent and child; they both enjoy pleasure and try to avoid discomforts. This never changes.
What does change is our familiarity with consequences. The cake we devour now will react on us differently in a half hour’s time. The mess we leave in the kitchen this afternoon will create disappointment and upset with mama when she comes home tonight. Etc., etc.
So my job as Taylor’s dad, as I saw it, had a lot to do with explaining why we were doing things in a way she could think with, and trying to clue her in to the consequences.
Some consequences have to be experienced to be believed.
After a failure or miscalculation one doesn’t need to say “I told you so”, though it might be tempting. The child will observe it for herself and note it for future reference.
And, since the job is 24/7, a parent learns to stockpile explanations in advance. It might come in handy to be able to explain digestion (“You know how our juicer separates out the thick stuff from the good juice?”) or how airplanes fly (“Air is actually kind of thick, and when a plane goes fast, it can kind of glide on top of it”) or any number of day-to-day things that a kid might get confused about.
Confusion is a prime enemy in childhood, and the dad does well, at the very least, to not add more to the mix.
Observing the child, helping them gain control over their bodies, and then the objects and activities of living, taking on the child’s point of view so as to predict where they might mis-estimate, validating them when they achieve some mastery, tolerance of their missteps, these are the components of a father’s love.
The main ingredients of my particular brew, anyway.
Last thing I want to mention is an odd emotion that strikes me these days when I see a photograph of Taylor from her childhood; I swear it feels like “happy grief”.
Just writing this brings tears to my eyes now!
It’s like I miss that kid, that little girl that once depended on me to make sense of a chaotic world.
“I remember her! We sure had a lot of fun times together… Whatever happened to that kid?”
I’m “grieving” for someone I still see almost every day… funny.
I’m sure a lot of dads feel that way.
To close, I’m far more grateful than deserving of credit on Father’s Day. Thank you, Taylor, and thank you Tamra for giving me the chance to be a dad. It’s been an honor.