(I wrote this in my journal and decided to share it with the Universe)
On Father’s Day I think it’s important for me to express what it means to me to be a father. First, I can’t think of any greater privilege than raising my children. Having the responsibility to teach these two amazing teenagers about life and love and individuality and presence and forgiveness and transcendence and thankfulness keeps me on my toes. Truth be told, I Iearn more from them every day than they could possibly learn from me. I have days when I simply drop the ball at being a great dad, and yet, they graciously allow me to keep trying.
I don’t know if it’s because I only get my children half the time or because this is just how I’m wired, but I cherish every second I get to spend with them. I understand that fathers who aren’t divorced and who get their children every day have their own struggles to deal with, but any parent–father or mother–must face the loneliness that comes with their little ones being away for long stretches. I don’t know any parent that prefers to have their kids every-other week.
I recently heard a quote that I hope my children could say about me someday. Clarence Budington Kellard once said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
I don’t torture my children with long tirades on how they’re doing everything all wrong: That never worked for me and it would never work for them. Instead, I attempt–some days rather unsuccessfully–to let my life do the talking. I worry less about the people they are becoming and I worry more about the person I am. I don’t know any parent who successfully controls every aspect of their children’s lives–especially once they get to be teenagers. But I do know parents that lead more by example and less by their mouths, and those are the parents that tend to earn respect from their children.
I can divide my life very easily into two parts–before being a father and then becoming one. That hot August day in a hospital delivery room changed my life trajectory forever. Life has been full of plenty of ups and downs since then. I have had many triumphs and a few defeats but the one constant since that day has been the love I carry with me for my children. I’m reminded of that touching poem by e.e. cummings:
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
As a father I continue to strive every day to learn more about this crazy world I’ve brought children into. I strive to learn because it makes me a better father. I strive to be a better listener so I can hear past my children’s words. I strive to have better vision so I can see beyond my children’s behavior. And I strive to gain as much wisdom as possible so I can not sweat the small stuff but know what the big stuff is that may require some sweat.
Some fathers go into fatherhood with fear and trembling; that’s never been me. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to live my life to the fullest and dared to face fear head-on. Why should fatherhood be any different? Some day my children may get into trouble that all of us wish they could have avoided. I don’t fear it, I expect it. But if I never get that phone call in the middle of the night telling me they’re in trouble, I won’t live in fear of it. Instead, as they get older and are exposed to more of this world’s craziness, I will savor every second I have with them and I will continue to learn from them every day. And if I do get the tear-filled phone call full of shame and embarrassment, I trust I will be the calm anchor they need at that time.
There are no guarantees in this life. Nothing in my studies has proven to me we are entitled to anything. We have no idea what tomorrow may bring, but there’s one thing I want Kelsi and Keaton to never forget: I am eternally grateful you each chose me as your father and I will love you both forever and always!
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)