What kind of dad are you? Recently, my wife and I moved to a new community to be with my father, who is at this time 87. As empty nesters, we walked away from our normal grind and relocated to a new community, church, and environment with only each other. As I began to connect with some local men in my church, I met with a young man that inspired me from a bible study that I attended. Not really knowing many people, I reached out and met with him over coffee.
During our conversation of introduction and scoping out our direction in life, He asked me a question that I had never been asked before by another human being. He asked me, “so what do you bring to the table of friendship?” I felt like I just applied for a job. I wasn’t offended, but was just taken back. This guy wanted to know if I was worth his time and investment. I was wowed and impressed. “This guy is direct”, I thought. I had to think. What kind of a friend was I? Why would this guy want me to be on his list of buds?
This made me ask the question, “what kind of dad am I?” My potential new friend was a new father/dad himself. He got me thinking. Dads come in all flavors and sizes. We have different skills, potential, as well as environments. If you watched television in the 50s and 60s, dads were very cookie cutter in nature. At least that is what the programs depicted. In reality and given time, you will run into all kinds of dads. I know so many that are so much the opposite as myself, with kids that think their dad is superman.
Do we have to have a particular style, attitude, or belief system? I would say “yes” and “no”. I believe that there is a foundation that we all need to be great dads. After the foundation is laid, it just matters what kind of house you want to build. The foundation must be a passion to put our children’s needs above our own, to be firm, yet loving, willing to sacrifice our ego to learn, and a good listener. After that it is up to your recipe. What do you want to create in your children? What are your goals and aspirations for them?
Remember that it is important to understand who you are before you can translate ideals to your kids. Understand that we ALL have biases. We have learned by our experiences and exposures over time. This shapes who we are. Combine this with personality, culture, and goals, you will start to see who and what you are. What is “your” character like? Do you look in the mirror (figuratively, or literally) and evaluate yourself? You should do this before you begin your dad journey.
I don’t like to look at my faults. I don’t like to admit my insufficiencies. I like to think that I have it all together and know what is best for my kids. This attitude is a huge disservice to your kids. I must have a spirit of learning. Only when we strive to learn, willingness to admit our mistakes, and tame the alpha male can we truly grow. This does not make us weak. On the contrary, it strengthens us. Like steel in a forge, you must go through the heat to make yourself stronger. Our forge is humility. Please not that I did not say weakness. You can be humble and strong. Your kids need your strength for them and in some cases against them.
Some may disagree, but I don’t think humility is natural for most men. This may seem funny or weird, but for me humility came in the form of God’s voice and a line from the movie, The Princess Bride. In the movie there was an evil character that thought he was a genius. He thought he was the smartest guy around. He kept using the word, “inconceivable”. Later in the movie, another character said to the “smart man”…”You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. One day, God said to me, “you know…you are not as great as you think you are. You need to humble yourself and seek wisdom”.
I can have a contentious attitude. I’m a fighter. I’m not afraid to go to battle, especially if I believe myself to be right. One day a wise boss of mine said, “you know, you can be right and yet still be in the wrong”. Our ideas may be correct, yet the way we communicate may be wrong. If we do so, we don’t prove our point. We prove that we are poor communicators and in translation are probably just jerks. I have known many jerks that were super smart. No one listened to their facts. All they heard was the jerk saying “blah blah blah”.
As dads we need to evaluate ourselves and turn away from practices and beliefs that don’t serve others well. We need to speak and act through our passion and love, not through our egos. Self-discipline is essential for you to be the best dad possible.