When my wife and I started planning a family I had a very different perspective. I’m gonna be a great Dad, I told myself. I just knew it. I had never changed a diaper before, and I didn’t grow up around younger cousins who helped acclimate me to the whims of toddlers. I hadn’t read any books on parenting, nor did my extended college career involve lessons that would prep me for the task ahead.
My confidence in being the kind of dad they make mugs declaring their number one status for wouldn’t go away.
That was then. This is reality.
Now, I’m certainly not a lousy dad. As Chris Rock once crassly put it, “I take care of my kids,” as if simply voting “present” was enough to win you Father of the Year trophies. I make time for my sons, kiss their bruises away and am fast with a hug when they need it most.
The simple act of fatherhood is still crushingly hard every day – no vacations or time outs. So where did I get this false sense of fatherly pride?
I partially blame my parents. I grew up in a home where love, common sense and dignity were as constant as the Yankees telecasts blaring from our television set. Parenting felt easy from my youthful perspective. My brother and I rarely rocked the boat in a significant way, and we brought home the kind of grades that inspired hugs, not lectures on the value of a sound education. My parents never seemed to lose their cool when it came time to keep us in line.
The best actors and athletes make it look easy. So do ace parents.
Being a father proved humbling all the same. For every victory – “look, Eli is eating his asparagus!” – comes a crushing defeat – “honey, why are there pen marks on Ben’s face?” The lessons my parents indirectly taught me remain my guidelines, but the years have left them blurry, forcing me to mentally squint to read them now.
I still think that years from now, when I look back on my days raising two sons, I’ll give myself a solid B+. Getting to that point is going to take more work, hustle and determination than I ever imagined.