Getting right with fatherhood on this day
By Mike Goodman
Monday, June 17, 2019
Fatherhood from the view of a father and a son leaves me immensely grateful, but with a tinge of unease on the grading of my performance as a dad. That’s probably normal to look back at the highs and lows and how we manned-up as fathers over the years.
My own father’s experience as a dirt-poor child of the Great Depression, World War II veteran, and member of that “Greatest Generation” provided him the patience, capacity for love and gentle understanding required to offer encouragement rather than criticism in response to his son’s missteps. Surely, some of that passes on.
Other dads of my generation have related to me similar experiences and feelings on their fatherhood. Hence, common traits must exist for performance anxiety in the fatherly role.
Today Americans celebrate the status and privilege of fatherhood. It’s nice to be recognized — and gifted, too. But while being toasted as fathers, some of us will be silently wondering how we measure up to the image.
We’ll recall how often we really wanted to go fishing or golfing, surfing or card-playing rather than changing a diaper, trying to understand advanced calculus at the kitchen table or simply sweating the enormously high financial pricetag of children. Should such thoughts disqualify us from today’s accolades as good fathers?
Not really. Far too often, selective memory leads to images of when the best attributes of great fatherhood were in short supply. Did I really scream at my son for walking in front of the TV during a critical point in a Carolina-State basketball game? I did. And why wasn’t I more supportive when my daughter wanted a better car? Today, years later, they seem to be fine, well-adjusted adults. I don’t think either of them holds any resentments against me. They probably don’t even remember it, but I do.
Ah, could it be that fathers are hard-wired to focus on weaker dad moments with their children? That would explain the tendency — mine a least — to want to be better at the dad job.
Still, dads should not overlook the times when fatherly instincts actually led to or produced great outcomes — achievements, graduations, successful careers, happiness, personal fulfillment — even laughter or a simple comfort. And face it, no one’s perfect.
I remember at 10 or 11 years old, my father saying how he wanted me to have opportunities that he didn’t have. He’d already made sure my youth would have no resemblance to his own — a time a desperation and need. He’d built a better life for his family and himself.
Yet, I observed that he’d also developed a firm love for the game of golf, which sometimes competed with fatherly obligations, especially on weekends, when he could have been tossing a baseball with me. I never harbored any regrets about it. In fact, I’m glad he rewarded himself with the pleasures — and frustrations — of the game. He’d earned it.
“I want you to be better than me,” he often said to me.
Not better, Dad; hopefully as good.
Mike Goodman is the publisher and executive editor of The Daily Advance.