I’m not the dad you see on TV.
You know the one I’m talking about—the one who is more concerned about remote controls than report cards. The guy who spends more time bowling with his buddies than brushing his daughter’s hair. The dad who can name each of his football team’s top draft picks but can’t remember his kids’ birthdays.
Yeah, that dad.
Well, I’m not him—and neither are most of us. Sure, we’ve got our quirks, but the majority of dads are infinitely more nuanced than the two-dimensional cardboard cutouts we are depicted to be. Listen, I’m not going to feign indignation about the stereotype—but I’m not going to embrace it either.
So, then, who are we?
The truth is . . . we agonize over our kids. I constantly wonder if I am teaching my children the right life lessons. Are they even listening? Are they learning from my example—or in spite of it? Am I spending enough one-on-one time with each individual child? Do they feel supported? Do they feel loved? And these are just the questions I ask myself each day before breakfast.
The truth is . . . we wish we had more time. Man, how we wish. The worst part of any day for me is choosing between finishing a presentation or having a dance party with my daughter. Don’t let the Homefront commercials fool you; sometimes the dance has to wait. On the other hand, sometimes I throw caution to the wind and lose myself in a rousing rendition of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” I’ve been on both sides. There isn’t enough time to do it all. I just try to disappoint my kids as infrequently as possible.
The truth is . . . we are not oblivious—we are optimistic. We know the magnitude of the problems around us. We know the electric bill is due. We know the car has seen better days. We know tragically unexplainable events play out in front of our kids’ eyes every time they scroll through their news feeds. We don’t ignore these things, but we do try to not allow them to steal our joy. My dad once told me that sometimes you have to smile to keep from crying. I think he’s right.
The truth is . . . sometimes we don’t know what to say to make things better. In fact, we rarely do. My kids have approached me about battles with bullies, troubles with teachers, fears of the future, and discussions about death. I feel like I never have the right answers. Usually I just listen. Sometimes I surprise myself with a pearl of wisdom, but that’s rare.
I feel like a guy on the shore of a massive lake looking back at the other side where I once stood. My clothes are wet and my muscles ache, but I can’t really explain how I made it across.
The truth is . . . we’re not sure if our children will remember any of our good qualities, but we’re convinced they will never forget our weaknesses. I’m afraid my kids will make the same mistakes I made. I’m afraid they are making some of them now.
The truth is . . . we wonder if we are encouraging our kids enough. What’s the balance between expecting a lot and being unrealistic? Does my son know I’m as proud of him for achieving a 3.49 grade point average as I would be if he received a 3.5? Should I remind him that either of those are better than what I received in high school—or would he think I’m a hypocrite for expecting more from him than I once expected from myself?
The truth is . . . we have about a million things we want to teach our kids, so we sometimes don’t know where to focus. Gospel basics? Words of scripture? How to improve their jump shot? How to deliver a firm handshake? Proper grammar? These don’t even account for the “Did I ever tell my kids how dangerous it is to stick a fork in the toaster?” thoughts that keep us awake at night.
The truth is . . . sometimes we make it up as we go. Is it OK that we took our kids out of school for that family vacation? Am I teaching them that family time is important or am I telling them that school isn’t? How late should I let them stay up on a school night? What if they want to read? What if they want to read the scriptures?
The truth is . . . we’re kind of exhausted. Imagine running a marathon. Barefoot. Backward. Every day. While holding four kids on your back. We try not to talk about it (largely because we know our wives are usually twice as drained), but, yeah, we get tired.
So, that’s the truth about dads. We fall short. We second-guess. We struggle. We hurt. We mess up.
But here’s the real truth:
We love. We cherish. We honor. We care. Not because we made ourselves that way, but because we have inherited our best traits and our greatest characteristics from the Father of us all.
So yeah, I’m not the dad you see on TV. I’m also not the father that our Heavenly Father is. For the moment, I’m somewhere in between—but I’m OK with that. Because I know in which direction I’m headed—and it’s not toward the remote control.