There is a difference between being a father and being a man. It is a conversation my teenage son and I have had many times.
Right now I am doing my best to teach him how to become a man and hoping that if one day he should become a father he picks up a little something along the way.
Hoping that I give him something he can use and don’t fill his head full of crap he doesn’t want or need.
Don’t Measure Yourself Against Me
I am sitting on the floor in the big kid’s room and talking to him about his day. I tell him it is late and suggest he try and grab more than fifty winks and he asks me to stay in there a bit longer.
Disembodied voices carry through dark as we share some more words about the rhythm of life and I surprise myself by telling him, “don’t measure yourself against me.”
“Dad, what does that mean?”
“It means I don’t want you to use me as a way to measure your own success. I don’t want you to feel you need to match me in any way or put more pressure on yourself by trying to do better. Be whomever it is you are going to be.”
“Why are you saying that? You are a good dad.”
I had to smile when he said that, but I had to tell him that for years I made myself crazy by trying to measure up to my father. It wasn’t because of anything he said or anyone else.
It was something I did on my own. Don’t know what made me start but for there was a long stretch of time where I felt like I had come up short because I didn’t do some of the things he did.
“Don’t misunderstand me, I am proud of much of what I have done. I have my list of accomplishments and a variety of goals that I am striving for but I spent too much time comparing myself to him.”
What Do You Want?
He asks me to tell him what I want and I talk about a castle, various cars and places I want to see. I tell him about some of the books I want to write but I stress there is a critical takeaway.
“The most important part of all this is that you share it with someone you care for. Not everyone needs a companion but most of us do. The hard part is figuring out who that person should be. The trick is trying to find the balance between not settling and not establishing unreal expectations.
There Is A Difference Between Being A Father & A Man
There is a difference between being a father and a man. Give yourself some time to be a man first and you’ll find that if you decide to become a father your life will be much easier.
“Dad, how do I avoid making mistakes.I don’t want to screw it up.”
I laugh and tell him to accept that he is going to make some mistakes along the way because it is how we learn. “But how do I avoid making the really big ones?”
“I can’t tell you that. There is no silver bullet or magic that I can give you. All I can tell you is to try and use your head and when things go south just roll with it. You’ll figure it out.”
Soft snores drift through the darkness and for a moment I close my eyes and remember the baby this teenager of mine used to be. The kid is so damn big now, all I can do is hope that some of what I have said sinks in and trust that he will figure it out.
I am pretty confident about it all but sometimes I think about the stupid things I did and be grateful that things turned out as well as they did.
Now all I can do is hope his common sense prevails and that when it doesn’t luck is on his side. Sometimes the hardest part of being a father is the uncertainty, but it has been worth it. I’d do it all again.