“You’ll understand when you’re older.”
Everyone has heard this line at one time or another. It wasn’t just my old man that recited those thought-provoking words; every other household had a patriarch who told his kids that the mysteries of the world would soon become clear with age and experience.
My dad, Richard, wasn’t wrong. It’s what I’ve learned in every one of my 38 years that has prepared me for fatherhood, a job that most take on blindly but don’t quite understand how vital it will become.
On Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment and thank all the good dads out there trying their best. That’s all we can do. It’s hard work. Sticking around, mentoring, and putting wise words and food on the table. Due to the ability to move our feet, placing one in front of the other, there’s the possibility to run away when the kid is born-but the good ones stick around.
I had a good one. It’s not just meeting a girl and getting her pregnant; that doesn’t make you a dad in my eyes. It merely makes you the father of the child. Becoming a true dad takes time and energy, along with gray hairs and stretched nerves. There are days where I freak out about Vinny’s teenage years and the increasing chance for him to get hurt. I prepare myself for emergencies while fighting off the urge to drink all the booze in the house.
All of this became abundantly clear this spring when I had to give school lessons at home to my kid. Vinny is a smart kid (there’s evidence of that if you know his mom), but taking the place of teacher was a whole new wild experience. I was tested, twisted, pushed, and screamed more than most real teachers. We hit roadblocks and writer’s block while finding ourselves caged in math dungeons and reading comprehended mazes. By the end of May, though, we had finished. Vinny passed and I never passed out.
I’m not a perfect dad by any means. I yell too much, lack patience, and often rely on fumed silence to figure out a problem. I’ve rarely hit Vinny but when I do-even just a slight crack on the shoulder-no one wants to put themselves in handcuffs for a day more than me. I always think to myself, “there’s a better way, asshole.” And then I get better.
Being devoted to your family is the most important thing. You are no longer the most important person on Earth. There’s the kid … and then the wife … and then five animals and you, but that’s small talk. My dad tells me constantly about how scared he was as a young dad, and I get it. You are petrified most days waking up as a dad. Is he okay? Will he be okay? Will I be okay?
Here’s the scariest question: Will I see him walk down the isle with the person he loves the most in life? Don’t tell me it’s a given. Just look around. Innocent people dying every single day. Disease, violence, pandemic, more violence, etc. All I want to do is stick around and be a great dad until the end.
Thanks to all the great dads out there. We’re in this together. Making sure the future is bright and taken care of.
I understand it all now, dad. I really do.