Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

I like to do things before I'm supposed to. Our family opened presents on Christmas Eve. I open my birthday cards before my birthday. And this year we celebrated on Mother's Day and Father's day even though our first baby isn't due to be born for another 10 weeks.

Yes, I like to read the final chapters of a novel first as well.

Anyhow, we did Father's Day today. My wife took me to Billy's, a Bethlehem diner I've been wanting to try for a while, this morning and it's steak on the grill for dinner tonight. I like the idea of ritual a lot and think it's important to get in the mode early and often. Of course I like to shower my wife with pampered treatment whenever I can as well. It isn't just about me.

But on to what I've been mulling: this notion of being a "good dad."

People tell me I'm going to be a good dad. I really, really hope that's true. My assumption is that it's based on interactions with me or watching me with my students, and it's flattering to hear people say it.

But honestly I'm not down with it quite yet. I'm big on actions. Being a good dad, just like being a good person, isn't a thing. It's not a state that you get and then own forever. It's a series of choices. You have to choose it every day, especially when it's hard.

I have no template for this, of course, and might be talking out of my ass. The only thing I have to base this on is marriage. Amy and I will celebrate five years pretty soon here, and one thing I've learned so far is that you have to work at it. All the love and warm feelings are great, but they alone won't sustain you when it gets hard. Within the first year of us getting married we went through some tough, tough things. The kinds of things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (if I had one). We didn't survive on feelings or stuff you hear about in pop songs. We survived by saying, damn it, we said we're in it through thick and thin. It forces you to make choices. And it makes the good times all that much sweeter.

I'm lucky, of course, to have a partner who's walking that with me. When the baby's born there's going to be a lot of good and some things that make it tough. I assume there will be lots of stress, crying, and not-sure-what-to-do moments. I'm positive I will be sleep deprived (thank you, everyone, for reminding me of that .... I mean, you sleep less when you have a baby? I had NO idea!). But you're in it for the long haul. You can't exactly put it back in the womb.

Choices. I am facing an unknown, and sometimes I'm overjoyed and sometimes I'm slightly freaked out by what I don't know. I already love this little Jeremy-Amy spawn to death and I haven't even seen its beautiful face. I hope someday it will think that I am a great dad. It might be the most important compliment in the universe other than my wife saying I'm a great husband. But I realize those choices start now, and I have to make them every day.

I've never been a dad. I'm sure this post sounds snotty to people who are old hands at this. But I am not new at living, and the choices thing is one thing I think I've figured out about life. You don't just choose something once. You have to choose that thing constantly, and it's when life gets hard that it becomes a test of what you really want.

There likely will be far more good, far more beauty, than bad. But I think being aware that everything is a choice helps you weather the tough stuff. Anyhow, that's the approach I'm taking to being a dad. I hope it's at least worthy of a start.

Happy Father's Day, everyone. I hope we measure up to the label.

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Post #4 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

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