Mike Crider’s dad worked hard and still found time to raise his two sons. He was such a good role model, Mike was afraid he couldn’t fill his dad’s shoes when he had kids of his own.
In many ways, I have been blessed beyond belief. I am the son of an outstanding man. The problem: now that I have twins, how can I possibly measure up to someone who seemed…perfect?
My father, who is still alive and doing fine, is not an international superstar. You won’t find him in a beer commercial surrounded by women playing with his beard because 1) he doesn’t drink, and 2) he doesn’t have a beard. He worked as an electrician for an American car manufacturer, so he fixed the machines when they would break down. He worked hard, really hard, for much of his life. He never asked for a raise or a promotion, he just went to work, because that’s what men do. For much of my life growing up, my father worked a day shift of about 6 am to 3 pm. When I was young, he worked some overtime, but I counted on Dad being home by 3:30 in the afternoon every day.
Dad came home at 3:30, everyday. Unless there was overtime to be worked, he came home consistently at that time. If it was five or ten minutes late, he needed gas that particular day. He took every opportunity to play with my brother and me, particularly as I got higher up into baseball. He caught many pitches I threw at him during my childhood, and even played as a defender when I was on the freshman basketball team and the other side needed a body. He was not physically imposing at 5’10”, but he had what the young people now call SWAG. He had no concern for what other people thought about him playing in jeans, he was spending time with his son.
I never saw my father get angry with anyone, I never heard him talk bad about anyone, and I never watched him mistreat anyone. He lived life with compassion and charity, and did many things for people that he probably should have taken some type of compensation for, but did not because he was nice. Even when I was kind of short-tempered and sometimes mean during my teenage years, he took it in stride and kept smiling. If the expression, “kill them with kindness” was true, dad was a mass murderer.
As I went into high school, my father began working more hours. My brother wasn’t into sports, and I practiced every day, so he worked more, knowing that we would probably be visiting colleges in the near future. Still, every game, home or away, my parents were there. Weekend tournament three hours away, let’s load up the van. When sports came to an end and I was busy with lots of school stuff and getting ready to graduate, Dad worked.
I went to college, and Dad worked a lot. But he suffered a heart attack my junior year of college and cut back dramatically on his hours. From that point forward, he worked little overtime until he retired in 2004, creating a path to go into full-time church ministry.
At this point, you are probably asking, “what is your problem? Why are you complaining?”
In 2011, my wife gave birth to fraternal twin girls. A lot of men reflect on their father’s behavior and how they were brought up. I’ve heard many men talk about how their fathers mistreated them, or mistreated their mothers, or how they just weren’t there. I’ve even heard many talk about how they would be the fathers their fathers were not. But in my case, my dad created a standard that I could not live up to.
I look like my father, and people can tell right away. Maury Povich need not get involved in this case, it’s pretty clear. But we were not born with the same characteristics; my father is very soft-spoken and hates to be in front of people, even as a minister. I have always been a ham, taking part in school musicals and productions, and while I’m not the most extraverted person, I love being around good people. But I am impatient, and I have not been nice to every person I have come into contact with. I don’t like conflict, but I am ready for it if it comes to find me.
So, the question needs to be asked: how do you become a great parent knowing you are not like your “perfect” father? I have created some suggestions that I believe are necessary for all dads, regardless of how they felt about their fathers. They apply to me because I’ve got to remind myself I am not my father.
- Carve your own path. You are not your father, and I am not mine. I, unlike my father, will argue if I need to, and this skill needs to be utilized to maximize what you can benefit from. My dad would not even send food back when it was wrong in a restaurant. I do, because I’ve worked in a restaurant, and I did not come to pay for food I did not order. I think your children need to see the side of you that will not back down from conflict, but will handle it with dignity. Your children need to see that you are unhappy from time to time, but they do not need to feel your wrath, particularly if you are unhappy with someone else.
- Upgrade experiences. If you reflect on your father and your conclusion is that he was perfect, then maybe you need to find some different things to do as a family. One downside of being involved in sports a lot was that we did not take a lot of family vacations, unless it was to see relatives. With this in mind, we definitely want to visit family as the girls get older, but we also want to give the girls some experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives. My wife and I are much more interested in travel and understand that our children will have a better understanding of their world if they are able to see different parts of it.
- Treat your spouse well. My father did this very well. I never saw my parents argue; as a matter of fact, the worst I ever saw was when they disagreed about what their favorite dish was at a particular restaurant. But your children need to see how you treat your partner and especially, their mother. Their first connection of social behavior will be how you interact with the other big person in the house.
- Have meaningful conversations with your kids. My father enjoyed talking to me, but our conversations did not always cover engaging topics. As your children get older, engage them in an issue, or a story you saw on the news. After all, if you don’t do it, society will.
I am thankful for my father and the example he set, but admittedly, I feel all the time as if I don’t stack up. But, the suggestions I have laid out can provide a framework for any father to establish and maintain a positive, loving relationship with his children.
photo by patspictures / flickr