I’ve come to realize that every father will experience what was for me, my worst day. I remember the day when I experienced it with my own father. I was somewhere in my teens. We were debating something and decided to settle the score by looking the answer up somewhere.
I was right.
The guy who I thought knew everything. The one who had the genius IQ. The man who built a successful business. The one who opined on everything and yelled whenever he wanted to, was wrong.
Outsmarted by his son, the idiot.
I realized at this very moment my Dad wasn’t perfect, and didn’t know everything. I would spend most of the rest of my life trying to put distance between us. My desire—to leave him in the dust.
After all, I was right.
Over time, I would learn I was right about a lot of things. I also found he was wrong about a lot of things. During this period, I learned he wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t stupid.
We have three sons in their late teens and early twenties. They have arrived at the “Dad doesn’t know everything” destination.
I remember my worst day.
One of our sons was a very good basketball player as a boy. His dream was perfect: to play in the NBA. It’s good to have dreams. I have them to this day.
As he aged it became evident he wasn’t going to be very tall. I never thought my five foot eight inch height would be a barrier for him. I talked to the pediatrician. He confirmed the obvious. We discussed how to break the news to my son that he should have his dream but also to have a few others.
I did some research and developed a story. Let’s see, there are roughly three hundred million people in the country. Also, there are about three hundred pro players. Therefore, you have to be one in a million. I added the fact that you can count on one hand the number of players under six feet. And on and on I went.
The time came, I was nervous. I entered his room and sat on the bed. I was certain I was about to break his heart. The thousands of hours he put in on the court. The hundreds of hours his Mom put in driving him from tournament to tournament. The time, money and effort. His future and my credibility with him would be washed down the drain of disappointment and submerged forever.
We have two more sons behind him. What kind of message would I be signaling to them? In one conversation on a sunny, summer day, I would be destroying a whole family and their dreams. The guy who I thought, they thought, knew everything was about to show his son just how smart his Dad is.
I thought perhaps I should just forget it and hope it all cleared up on its own. That’s it, hide from the issue. My issue.
I was spiraling.
I took a deep breath and started to talk. I got about a minute in and my son raised his hand and said. “Dad I know I have no chance of playing in the NBA. I doubt I will play in college either.”
That was it. He looked at me like I had three eyes and shook his head. He had come to the conclusion on his own. He was fifteen years old.
I realized at that moment what an idiot I was and how smart he was. I also realized he knew I wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box. I had come full circle.
Being adored and an authority figure for our kids only lasts for so long. They grow up and assimilate their own experiences into how they view the world. They form conclusions that may not be consistent with ours. They experience their own lives through a lens only they can see through.
We want to hang on to them forever, just kind of freeze them in a time when they were fun and looked up to us. We all try to do the impossible which only heightens our disappointment when we realize we can’t. This confirms our worst day, if you are a Dad you will have it.
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