Growing up I feared, was in awe of and often detested my father. He was stern and mostly emotionless. If and when he did laugh it was at things that weren’t funny. Now that I’m grown we are the best of friends. He is my confidant and my most staunch advocate. But back when I was under his roof and he was putting food on my plate, he often went upside my head first and asked questions later, maybe. I would get even though. I promised myself I would be a different kind of dad. I would show him how it’s supposed to be done.
And then I grew up and filled my house with children of my own.
Although there are countless joys being a father there are certain realities that come with the position. As Dad you are often called to be:
- the project manager – the head visionary with a plan of action for your family.
- the hard-nosed one who has to stick to the plans and make sure every one else does the same when things start to go off track.
- the enforcer of the rules for the kids.
- the one that gets called by Mom while on the job, from the living room, the basement or the game — to do the dirty work once things have escalated to a place where she’s certain she will kill her young.
- a clean-up artist and/or fixer on call 24/7.
Of course there are variances in the above requirements based on individual personalities and arrangements with spouses. But one thing is certain based on the above: As Dad there are days when you will not be liked and no one will want to be around you. No matter how crazy or loud Mom might get, if and when Dad goes on the warpath everyone scatters the way roaches do when the lights are turned on in the middle of the night (yeah, I went there). The second I begin speaking from my diaphragm where the real bass and growl in my voice lives, my children stop making eye contact, walk with their heads down and seek out the comfort of Mom. They murmur that I’m old and crotchety behind my back and avoid me like the plague until they are certain I’m in a better mood. The funny thing is that I’m rarely in any mood at all. I’m just carrying out the less rosy but absolutely necessary aspects of my job. Just as my father used to do after he’d make me regret being born then begin reading the newspaper as if it were a lazy Sunday morning. During these “Bad Dad” moments I use the time I have to catch up on a show I can’t watch in front of the kids or write, undisturbed.
Although I never stay unpopular for too long, I do marvel at the dynamic of how everyone runs to Mom no matter how tough she can be. It reminds me of how I would do the same while living under my father’s roof. But then I shrug my shoulders and keep it moving. I grew up, became a man and then a dad. Now I understand what I once believed was my father’s personality disorder. He was simply doing what he had to do and doing it for my sake. He wasn’t seeking my approval and didn’t care to. He was doing what he thought was best for my well being. Even if this meant me being pruned occasionally. As a parent the lives of your kids are at stake. It’s that serious. I’m cool with not being the fan-favorite because I know I’m protecting and serving the well-being of my children. This is the cross I bear and I embrace it.
How about you? Let us know in the comments section below. Are you comfortable playing “good parent, bad parent” when you need to?