Are You A 21st Century Father?


2007 Disney Weekends #4: Darth Vader

Are you a 21st century father? I ask because I don’t know what that means nor am I sure that I need to. What I know is that yesterday I spent most of the day with a certain almost eleven year-old boy who thinks that I am a freaking magician who can do anything.

He thinks that I don’t cry because I am tough but doesn’t understand the price that I have paid for that. He doesn’t know that there have been more than a handful of moments where I screamed at the moon and demanded that I be given a fair fight. He doesn’t know that I have spent more time than I care to think about walking through hell covered in gasoline because I thought that was what I had to do.

I did it because I thought that it was the right thing to do. I subjugated my own need for certain things because I thought that it was necessary and right. The melodramatic side of me would tell you that I did it because I wanted to be righteous and needed to feel like I did no less than my own father and grandfathers.

See, I look at those men and see role models that I should have done better following. The funny thing about it is that I know lots more about them all now than I once did. I was fortunate enough to have decades of life alongside my grandfathers as not just a child but an adult.

We sat down and talked about what it means to be a dad, a husband and a man. I know about many of their struggles but I can’t shake this feeling that they were tougher, smarter, stronger and or better at this than me.

Intellectually I don’t believe any of that to be true. I love them all and know them well enough that they would be honest and say that I am wrong. They wouldn’t hesitate. No son/grandson got more support but the thing about life is that even when you know certain things to be true sometimes a piece of you hesitates and says that maybe the whispers know more.

And maybe, just maybe that is why I have screamed at the moon.  Maybe I have gone looking for trouble because I knew that it was time to meet it head on. Maybe I knew that I needed to call the devil forth so that I could kick his ass or have mine kicked.

That is the thing about transition and change- it is not easy. Even when you know that it is right and necessary it can be a bitch. And if you haven’t figured it out yet I prefer to attack some challenges head on. Give me the damn ball and I am going run it up the middle until you surrender or my body gives out.


Yesterday that boy of mine beat me. Can’t tell you how excited I was. He beat me. My son beat me. Didn’t fall for any of the tricks, feints and traps I set- he handled them all. And then he handled me. Dammit, I am so proud that it takes the sting out of losing and I hate to lose.

What I loved about it was that it showed that he has been listening, learning and applying what he has learned to life. The little man couldn’t have smiled more broadly or been prouder of himself. For a moment I stared into those soft eyes of his and remembered the boy who asked me not to die and then I saw the boy he is now.

I congratulated him on his victory and he told me that he wants me to try harder next time. I promised him that I would, nodded my head and felt badly that I couldn’t tell my heroes about his victory.

And later that night as I lay my head down I couldn’t help but smile and feel like maybe, just maybe I have a handle on this father business. If nothing else I think that I am doing a decent job of writing letters to them so that one day they’ll know that sometimes we all feel like our hair is on fire. And maybe they’ll understand better why I am never bothered when people call me a dad blogger.

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  1. Diana Stroe November 24, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I still remember the first time I won over my dad when we played scrabble. He couldn’t believe that I was able to get more points than him. Funny part, just after the result, he jumbled all the tiles! Looks like a sign of disappointment and disbelief that it happened, but he’s laughing afterwards and I can see in his eyes that his happy for me.

  2. Shalani November 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I am amazed with your post… I remembered my father speaking of chess… He is the one who thought me that game and even tennis… I am his eldest and I always want to learn everything he thought me. That is why I love my father so much.

  3. sarah waldin November 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    great post. thanks for your wholehearted take on fathering. you have said so much, so simply. saving this one for my kids to read. sharing this one with others. “there are cracks, cracks in everything, that’s how the light gets in” (L Cohen). big hug.

  4. Bill Dorman November 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

    21st century; is that the one we are in now? Walking through hell covered in gasoline; that might make you step lively.

    I would like to think I led more by example for my kids and my wife took care of the detail stuff. And she did an excellent job.

    There are those ‘moments’ your kids will do something that just blow you away. My latest was my oldest being the best man in a friend’s wedding. At the reception he had to give a speech. He wrote it himself, it was very moving and he delivered it flawlessly. I couldn’t have been more impressed. It was a ‘wow’ moment for me.

    Fortunately I was the father that was able to be there. I was very involved with my kids growing up and have no regrets whatsoever. That is what I signed up for……

    • Jack November 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      I have no doubt Bill that you are still leading by example. No matter how old we are we are still watching how dad handles his business.

      Sometimes it is not as close as others, but we watch nonetheless.

      Your son’s speech sounds like a very special moment. Those never get old nor do we ever get enough of them.

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