Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day. It’s the 1 day a year, we acknowledge Dad. Many ties and golf balls were purchased. Oh there will also be some grill tools, socks and of course a wide assortment of “Best Dad” items.
But, beyond Father’s Day, today is also my son, John’s, birthday. It was bound to happen; the calendars foretold we would one day, share this day. I never thought much of it, until this past week.
In so many ways my journey to becoming a great dad is tied to my son. By all definitions of the word, “dad”, it was April 13, 2007 when I was finally bestowed that title. That was the day my daughter, Cora, was born. With Cora, everything was easy. She looked like her mom, buy she was me, 100%. This was the girl who talked early and fast. The girl who lacked fear; she climbed trees, road trikes and slid down slides. School came easy to her; so easy in fact, that she simply stopped doing homework…just like I did when I was her age. Understanding how to be Cora’s dad, was simple…it meant following the blue print my father used to raised me.
- Set the bar high
- Nurture curiosity
- Be tough, but fair
- Introduce different points of view
- Make it clear, the one person you never lie to, is your dad
Understanding what would motivate, interest and inspire Cora was as easy as looking in the mirror. Like I said, she looks like her mother, but she’s wired like me. Frankly, in many respects, such similarities made being a father relatively easy.
John, however, is the perfect example that two kids, from the same DNA, can be completely different. Everything that Cora is, John is not. Cora is blonde and blue eyed, but John has brown hair and eyes. Cora is very black and white; perhaps it’s what makes her so successful in her STEM program. For her, there are only 2 outcomes; it’s binary. But, John sees the shades of grey in between Cora’s black and white bookends. John’s a natural born athlete, with Cora more of an artist. Where Cora lacks fear, John is more prudent…he evaluates a situation first, identifies the risk, determines if it’s worth taking and then maybe, takes action. This is not to say that one approach is better than the other, but John’s personality is definitely not the same as mine.
John’s uniqueness offers balance and for some time, challenge. If Cora is an ENTJ, like me, John’s something like a ESFP. Where Cora and I judge, John perceives. Where we think, he feels. And where we rely on intuition, John senses. Thankfully, we’re all extroverts!
I thought I had this whole fatherhood thing figured out. With Cora, it seemed that every button I pressed, was the right button. Trying to raise John in the same way I’d raised Cora lead to countless mistakes. Kids are unique and you can’t copy and paste the same approach. That was fatherhood lesson 1.
As I look back on it, I think it was John’s love of sports (specifically basketball and baseball) that helped me understand how to be a better father for him. He’s a natural; simple as that. As I’ve said many times before, he has more natural ability than I ever did; and I was very good. He likes to work at it. Nary a day goes by when he doesn’t ask “dad, wanna play catch?” And what father turns that down?
Sports are more grey than they are black and white. They take time, patience and constant adapting. Watching him find joy in playing is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
I think when guys imagine having sons they imagine this “chip off the old block” who’s a spitting image of them. We yearn for a “Jr.” even if he’s not a Jr. in name. John may look like me, but he’s not wired like me. And that difference has made me a better person and father to both my children.
When John learned we would be sharing this day, he wanted to know who got to choose breakfast. I mean, it’s an important thing, right? I’m proud to write, I had no problem letting this be his day. After all, without him, I’d just be a dad and not a father.