Dad Gets His Mid-Term

by Dave Bittle. 0 Comments

When I think of all those traditional father’s day images—breakfast in bed, un-wearable ties, sweaters only Bill Cosby could appreciate, and “World’s Greatest Dad” tee-shirts—none are more central to the event than the uncomplicated image of a father and his children spending time together. Whether enjoying a game of catch, an afternoon visit to the fishing hole, or watching ole dad nod off during a “Dads-Are-Great,” American Chopper all-day marathon, dads’ and kids’ enjoying time together is what the holiday strives to achieve.

So named for the person it’s designed to honor, as well as “other paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in society,” Father’s Day was first celebrated on June 19, 1910, 102 years ago. This magnificent day, second only to Mother’s Day in parental significance, is recognized around the world every third Sunday in June, and is intended to celebrate all things dad. A day on which, if exploited properly, fathers can presume to have their entire family waiting on them hand and foot, jumping through hoops to satisfy his many manly requests, and performing all his daily chores—one exception being the grilling, the abdication of which no father worth his weight in mutton would concede—if only for a day, if you’re lucky.

But, as a father of two decidedly lovable, though undeniably determined and sometimes even exasperating (though their mother euphemistically favoring the term “extremely passionate”) daughters, I often ask myself the following questions: Am I sacrificing enough? Do I set aside adequate time to play, talk, and hang-out with them? What regrets, if any, will I have when they’re grown? Am I worthy of their love and devotedness? Often, I think yes, I am. Sometimes, however, I think, not so much—try as I might, I’m enormously imperfect.

And so, with Father’s Day approaching, what better time for us dads to contemplate the actual assignment, to set about the difficult task of evaluating, through the use of facilitated critiques (I’ll explain in a moment), just how good a job we’re doing. Or not.

To help answer this difficult question, I thought it only appropriate to enlist the help of two experts in this field, my daughters. Who better to evaluate—this is where the facilitated critique comes in—my competence and brilliance as a father? Or not.

“So guys,” I began, “with Father’s Day just around the corner, I’d like to know what kind of job you think I’m doing as your dad?”

“Medium” my oldest said, much too enthusiastically “and I’ll tell you why.” Happy to go on, she continued, “Most dads don’t yell at their kids like crazy. And usually most dads let their kids have more treats than you.” Then, lowering her voice to an near whisper, as if to say this is going to hurt, she punctuated her critique “Also, you could be a little stronger…..and a little less hairy too.” Stronger? Less hairy? Yikes, that does hurt. The balding guy, too hairy—mull that over.

Incensed her father was being viciously attacked, and for no good reason, her younger sister, who until now had been sitting quietly in the back of the van listening, leapt to my defense “He can’t help how hairy he is!” Her words somehow lacked the desired effect of softening her sister’s crushing blow. “Yes he can,” quipped my oldest, “he can shave!” Ouch—tough crowd.

No doubt regretting the severity of her critique, she then volunteered two more encouraging appraisals. “Also, you’re not as stubborn as mommy, (no kidding, I could have told you that) and sometimes you set back time to play with us.” Sometimes? How about all the time. Yelling? Whatever. I’m just emphatic. I’ll have to work on that…Not necessarily the setting back of more time, or the reduction in yelling, rather her perception of the time already “set back” and her appreciation for the concept of emphatic.

As for my youngest, she sensed an opportunity to gain favor (candy of some kind for sure), and therefore took the surreptitious-road, offering only “I think you’re awesome Dad.” The though being she’d counter her sister’s yin with her own yang, eager to set herself apart, which she didn’t—I saw right through her, it was obvious.

So, am I sacrificing enough? Do I set aside adequate time for playing, talking, and hanging-out with them? What regrets, if any, will I have when they’re grown? Am I worthy of their love and devotedness? The answer is I really don’t know, exactly. Having been described as a “medium” father surely must mean I’m not great, but maybe not terrible either—defiantly considerable room for improvement.

And though not exactly a referendum on my parenting ability, being thought of as “not strong” by your daughter doesn’t do much for the fragile male ego, nor does the observation that you’re “too hairy." However, my new weight routine has me reaching for the stars—one set, three reps at 10 lbs. each, impressive, I know. And, like my youngest said, “He can’t help how hairy he is,” it’s simply a cruel joke to be the balding guy and at the same time proclaimed “too hairy.”

To be sure, being a father is the toughest job I’ve ever had, which may explain my “Medium” job performance assessment. But then again, being the father of my girls’ is also the best-toughest job I’ve ever had, and I’m a better man for it.

So, as an act of deference to all those great fathers out there, and the countless others like me who endeavor to be so, I include this prayer, written and made famous by General Douglas A. MacArthur. My own father, who, having departed this earth when I was merely ten years old, thought so much of it he went to the trouble of having it laminated before placing it in his bible, which is now mine. My hope is, given the occasion he’d grant, that while his life was indeed too short, it was not in vain. For my liking, however, I prefer to substitute the more androgynous designation of “child” for his label of “son.”

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee….Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

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