A dear friend of mine will soon become a member of a club that should have a more exclusive membership than it currently does, but that is a post for a different time. For now I’ll focus on sharing a bit of the conversation we had.
This past weekend we spent some time talking about the future and what it holds. Naturally the conversation turned to children. I spent a few moments bringing him up to date on what is going on with mine and then he surprised me with “what should I do to be a good father?”
The rules of the blog dictate that I offer honest responses and the truth is that I consider myself to be a good father. I am better than some and not as good as others but working at it. So when he asked me for my thoughts I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts and do what I do best…I rambled.
I told him that there is no more rewarding and no more frightening experience. I told him that he needs to commit himself to making an investment in his children, however many he may have. I expressed the need for a lot of love and affection. I told him that it is incredibly important to work with his wife on presenting a consistent message and that you can’t try to be their friend and a father, but the reverse.
Young kids need guidance. They need boundaries and they need structure, but they also need room to play and to be creative.
I told him that I have never met a parent who didn’t question themselves and some of their decisions. I said that there were going to be moments when you do something that eats away at you. Sometimes you make decisions that you regret. He asked me what my hardest experience thus far has been.
It is a hard question to answer. When my eldest was 13 months old he got the flu and refused to eat. We begged him to, but he was so miserable that he wouldn’t. And because he had the flu he was expelling fluids from every possible orifice you can imagine. So we took him to the doctor and he was placed on an IV and hospitalized over night.
That was agonizing. I was a new father which I think made it even harder. The truth is that it didn’t take very long for the IV to do its magic and in relatively short order he was fine. But it was a bit traumatic.
Of course that is many years ago so to a certain extent the memories have faded. It was hard to tell him that his great grandfather had died. It was hard because I missed my grandfather so damn much. It was hard because I wanted him to see that it was ok to be upset but not be scared because I was upset.
It was hard because he was nervous about his own mortality. I kept a straight face as I told him that there was no reason to be worried and that he was going to live a very long life, but let’s be honest. There is no greater fear for a parent than losing a child. So even though on a rational level I was quite fine, there is a superstitious part of me that doesn’t want to think or discuss that.
The real upshot to this discussion was that I told him that the reality is just like they say, there is no instruction book for raising kids. There are a lot of things that are clearly wrong, but beyond that there a hundred shades of gray so you really just wing it and do the best that you can.