Monday, June 8, 2008

Well, another 365 days have briskfully cycled through the calendar; another busied year filled with meetings, appointments, obligations, tasks and commitments. And even beyond all those penciled markings on the calendared squares or electronic notes on the daily PDA, lie the 525,600 robust moments that define us as a person. Here in these subtle moments as a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, wife, husband, mother, father, colleague, friend and significant other lie the very life blood, the richness, of our journey.

Unlike Nature which exists solely within a seamless process, we humans are so prone to divide and categorize our life by entire lists of pre-s and post-s of accomplishments, careers, journeys and yes, even relationships...

"Oh, you mean after I left my position at Smith-Weismiller-Leyer..."

"You're thinking of the other person I dated; that was prior to Emily..."

"So, now that you are no longer doing ____, with what are you occupying your time?"

And even with our most determined effort to "section and quarter," our journey continues as a somewhat seamless process of becoming that person that is looking at us in the mirror.

Those subtle moments as a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, wife, husband, mother, father, colleague, mentor, friend and significant other are so important and vital, that there are even annual/national reminders: Grandparents Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc.

Within that calendar or PDA sitting on your desk, you most likely will not find these annual/national celebrations for:

  • Coming to Work and Staying Late Every Day This Year Day
  • Ignoring Your Family and Watching More Television Than Anyone You Know Day
  • Staying Up and Worrying About the Potential Promotion Day
  • Focusing on Obtaining More and More Stuff Day

It may seem humorous to read this short list, but it smacks of the paradox we live in, my friend. That which we often chase is not that which is life-sustaining and life-enrichening. And often times, that which we take for granted is the rarest treasure and antidote we could ever discover.

In my case, I am blessed to celebrate just such an upcoming annual reminder (Father's Day) and not just on one Sunday in June, but every wonderful and grace-filled day of my life. For me, it has been and remains life-sustaining and enrichening. At the risk of sounding as if I'm dissecting my life into categories, I will state that this September will mark my fifth completed year as a stay-at-home father (or residential education specialist, as I jokingly refer to my journey). And I am often told by family and friends, "You probably don't realize it because you're around them all day, but your little ones are growing up and changing alot..." Yet I am painfully aware of the "one foot out the door" process that my children practice and hone almost every day. They are journeying from preschool to college, in the blink of an eye... and I'm gloriously witnessing it every moment of every day. It is one of those often overlooked and forgotten responsibilities and privileges of a father. As Harry H. Harrison Jr. so eloquently states, "Being a dad means taking the training wheels off. In fact, that pretty much defines fatherhood."

Recently, I happened across an easily dismissed treasure entitled, 1001 Things It Means To Be A Dad (Some Assembly Required) by Harry H. Harrison Jr. It's such a simple, yet profound 300-page paperback that if I were constructing a college course on Becoming/Being a Father, I would make this required reading.

Allow me to share with you just a few of my favorite of Harrison's 1001 gemmed insights. If you are a father (biological, step or foster) to another human life, please relish these few insights. And if you have/had a father, I hope these insights will help you to better appreciate their specific journey beyond this annual celebration of Father's Day. And for those of you who are or have/had a mother, these insights are easily interchangeable.

  • Being a dad means talking to your kids. The number of words your kids know has a direct impact upon their IQ.
  • Being a dad means taking your children hiking. Even if it's just through the woods across the street.
  • Being a dad means encouraging individual creativity. Not squelching it because you don't understand it.
  • Being a dad means having the power to define your children's future by what you tell them now. If you tell them they are smart, they will believe you.
  • Being a dad means doing everything humanly possible to never disappoint your children. And forgetting that disappointment is inevitable.
  • Being a dad means telling your wife what a great mom she is. Often.
  • Being a dad means standing on the sidelines and knowing it's as far as you can go. This pretty much explains fatherhood.
  • Being a dad means praying for guidance. Daily.
  • Being a dad means wondering if you're the problem.
  • Being a dad means telling them they are the kids you always wanted.
  • Being a dad means giving your kids enough rope to rebel without letting them hang themselves.
  • Being a dad means teaching your children that God is always behind the science.
  • Being a dad means laughing at yourself in front of your children. They'll learn they can laugh at their mistakes too.
  • Being a dad means trying to keep the fear of something bad happening to your child just beyond your state of consciousness. That fear never really goes away. But it can be managed.
  • Being a dad means telling your child to get up when they fall.
  • Being a dad means teaching your values and morals now. Because by their teenage years, they are practicing whatever they've learned from whomever they've learned it.
  • Being a dad means showing your children how to find their way home (physically and metaphorically).
  • Being a dad means having more confidence in your child than they have in themselves.
  • Being a dad means teaching your child to face their fears. They'll watch how you face yours.
  • Being a dad menas raising your children to live without you.
  • Being a dad means learning the fine art of letting go.
  • Being a dad means being amazed at what your child has become. And telling him/her so.
  • Being a dad means reassuring them that 90 percent of the things they're most scared about will never happen. And God will give them the power to deal with the rest.
  • Being a dad means encouraging your children to live for a noble cause.
  • Being a dad means telling your children there are second chances. And giving them.
  • Being a dad means teaching that seeing isn't believing. But believing is seeing.
  • Being a dad means telling your kids they will be responsible for any new life they bring into the world.
  • Being a dad means reminding them of their gifts.
  • Being a dad means extending grace for the past.
  • Being a dad means you will every now and then pick your children up, dust them off, and send them back into the game.
  • Being a dad means encouraging your children to live fearlessly.
  • Being a dad means understanding God has big plans for you. He chose you to be the father of His child.


Post Note: In his grand little book, Harrison concludes the 1001 Things with a section entitled "Parting Words." Within that section, he lists the final 32 "Being a dad..."s. Of those 32, one stood out that made me ponder for quite some time:

Number 990: Being a dad means not expecting any thank-yous.

Even further, in one portion of his book, Harrison even identifies 15 "Being a dad..."s for stay-at-home fathers. Here are a few that entertain and humor me (and are very close to the truth):

  • Being a stay-at-home dad means kissing your wife good-bye and then doing the dishes.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means throwing dirty diapers on top of your ego.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means being asked what you do all day.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means realizing a good part of the locker room can't identify with you.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means taking your child to a play-group and having soccer moms regard you as either a pervert or a hero.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means wondering how you will explain this gap on your resume.
  • Being a stay-at-home dad means being able to truthfully say, "The most important things to me are my kids."

Perhaps Number 990 isn't exactly true, after all. Perhaps thank-yous should be expected... most especially, from me.

You see, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my wife Di and my children Leo, Emily, Hannah and Nicholas. They have been and are such a gift to me. And although they have a long way to go, they have taken this rough and raw father/husband slate of granite and have been doing their very best to sculpt it into something recognizable. Thank you for your patience, your persistence and your lessons.

As well, thanks must go to my mother and father who were instrumental in setting me on the course that I journey today. As a parent now, I realize and truly appreciate the sacrifice you've made over the years. And although it may seem as if I've been pretty independent over the years, I want you to know that I haven't forgotten the lesson you taught me so many years ago: Being a parent means showing your children how to find their way home.


SOLUS: hoedl's haven; All rights reserved; Copyright 2003