For my son . . .
You don’t know this, but I often watch you while you sleep. I’m always struck by the peaceful look on your face – so young and innocent. And peaceful. Very often in your sleep, you look like you don’t have any cares in the world.
I’m also often struck by the awesome responsibility that you represent. So much of your life depends on me – your food, home, clothes, and many of your activities.
It’s important that you know that I always try to be the best father I can be to you. I know I often fall short, but it’s not for a lack of trying. And I know it’s still going to be many years before you have kids of your own, but I hope that when you do, you’ll remember many of the traits I tried to incorporate while raising you.
Patience. It’s important to remember to always remember that it takes time for kids to learn – time to learn to tie a shoe, make a bed, sweep the floor, and act like the person you want them to be. Kids aren’t born with this knowledge – it’s easy to forget that when life is moving fast and throwing new problems at you every day. It’s easy to take out frustrations on your kids when they don’t do something right. But that’s when it’s important to remember what they are – they’re kids, just like you were. Just like I was. And sometimes I can’t get it right either.
Calmness. This ties in with Patience. I think your kids will appreciate a calm parent, a parent who listens and doesn’t always react angrily or critically. To achieve this effect, you may have to bite your tongue. Often. But a shorter, bleeding tongue is a small price to pay.
Time. There’s no substitute for spending time with your kids. Spend time doing things they like to do. Spend time doing things you like to do. Do chores together. Try new things together. It really doesn’t have to be anything special. Just spend time doing the day-to-day things together, or take time to play a little catch. Or checkers. Or rock-paper-scissors. It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is just spending the time together, to let them know that they’re important in your life.
And, of course, take time to talk, and time to listen. They might ask you a question that you think is the dumbest in the world. But it’s not to them. Listen patiently; answer patiently.
Time for yourself. This is almost the opposite of what I just told you, but there are going to come occasions when you’re just going to need time for yourself, time to recharge. I often imagine life as a fast-moving river. Events move by quickly, life rushes by you, and sometimes the current beats you against life’s rocks. There are going to be times when you need to pull yourself out of the river and fall onto the bank, where you can just sit and watch life go by for a few minutes. Or hours. Or maybe even a day or two. And then, once rested, throw yourself back in with everything you’ve got, and let life carry you once again.
Lead. Be a leader. Remember: your kids are watching you. Act the way you want them to act.
Teach. As Crosby, Stills and Nash said, “Teach Your Children Well”. Teach them how to do things, for the family and for themselves.
Laugh. Always remember to laugh. Life is too short not to. It will be hard to laugh sometimes when your son breaks a glass. But just remember, in just a few short years, he’ll probably be wrecking your car.
Hope. Fill your kids with hope – hope for the good things in life, hope for better things ahead. Instill in them a positive attitude – an attitude of confidence, in themselves and what they do, and hope for their lives. Hope for the job they want. The family they want to be a part of. The things in life that are important to them. They may not always get what they want, but they should always have hope that they will. It’s like Andy said in Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” And you don’t want your kids going through life without it.
As you lie here, sleeping soundly and growing up right before my eyes, I know I’m not the perfect father. In fact, I’ve fallen far short of what I had hoped to do today.
But tomorrow is another day. And it will provide another chance to be the father I want to be. And a chance to mold you into the man and father I want you to become.