Being a father is such a strange thing to me: On the one hand, it is the most natural thing in the world. I watched both of my children be born. I even delivered my daughter. None of what I’ve ever done as a father ever seemed strained or forced. Fatherhood is a role I have found immediately comfortable and enormously rewarding. Yet… thinking of myself as a father is still something I sometimes have a hard time feeling entirely comfortable with. I guess being a dad to a teenager and a tweenager seems… weird to a man still south of his forties. I still think of myself as a bit of a punk kid, so having to be an example of poise, wisdom, confidence and moral fortitude for my children often feels like a bit of a stretch to me. I barely feel like an adult as it is. Now I have to act like one too?
When I think of what it means to be a father, I think about my own: Alain Blanchard. The stern patriarch. The insanely well educated and successful guy who used to raise an austere eyebrow at me when I fell out of line, and indirectly taught me everything from how to eat lobster to how to tie a tie. The guy I used to race to the far buoy in Cannes and St Tropez when I was a kid. The guy I both loved and feared, hated and respected, looked up to and misunderstood all of my childhood.
He and I are such completely different fathers, it’s hard for me sometimes to think of myself as filling his shoes in any conceivable way. Especially since for all the failures I blamed him for as a child and later as a teenager, I am guilty of three times as many with my own children. As hard as I try, some aspects of this job still escape me on a regular basis. I have to tell you, those little failures drive me nuts. To think that each thing I get wrong as a dad could have a significant impact on the lives of my kids later on is pretty scary. Terrifying even. And yes, I sometimes stay up pretty late thinking about that.
Looking back on the choices my father had to make when I was a kid, I have a much better appreciation now of what he must have gone through than back when I expected him to be… well, perfect. As it turns out, my father wasn’t perfect, but I know he tried as he tries still. Sometimes, he hits the mark. Sometimes, he doesn’t. Oh well. So what. His imperfections are just as valuable to me as the qualities I envy in him. And you know, it isn’t like there’s a book out there with all of fatherhood’s arcane secrets. There is no secret certification out there either. We do what we can with what little we know, and the great irony of fatherhood is that the wisdom we gain from raising children comes when they no longer need us rather than in the beginning, when they need us most. Life is funny that way.
We expect our fathers to be perfect, but the truth is that they aren’t gods. They’re just men, trying to figure out how to not screw this up on a daily basis, and let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Happy Fathers’ Day, everyone.