I write this from a Washington, D.C. hotel room. It’s Father’s Day 2018. I am on the 8th day of a 10-day east coast trip with my three kids. They are still sleeping in their room, which connects to mine. My kids are 11, 9 and 9 (twins obviously). They had never been to the east coast before. We are at our final stop. We started in Boston. Then we rode the train to New York City. And later, yesterday, we arrived here. Each kid was responsible for planning our activities in a particular city. When they showed me their power points detailing each day’s activities, I was pretty impressed. We have been having a great time.
In Boston, we did a recreation of the Boston tea party and visited “Old Ironsides” and Plymouth, Massachusetts. In New York, we took a ferry to the Statute of Liberty, visited the 911 Memorial and watched Aladdin. Here, we will visit the memorials, the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. We are staying in a great hotel in Georgetown.
And so, today is Father’s Day, and having spent a ton of time with my kids on this trip, I thought I would write about my perspective on being a dad. First, I guess, would be that being a dad is the most important thing I do. I’m sure all parents would agree. And so, because it is so important, I sacrifice and plan to give my kids the very best lives they can have. I’m now divorced and don’t have them all the time. But I intentionally carve out time for them and make that time as positive as I possibly can. Because of that, and with work being so demanding, I don’t have much time left for “me.” I accept that as part of the deal. I have been blessed with three great kids and every second I get to spend with them is a blessing in itself. This trip is an example. I have work to do and a jiu-jitsu tournament I should be training for. But they come first. I will just have to work harder and train harder when I get home.
I am proud to say I have become a much better dad as I have grown older. There was a time when I put work and me before them. When they were young, I would sometimes stay out late and self-indulge. Doing so caused me to miss time with them sometimes. I regret that. Now I never miss an opportunity to spend time with them. I have coached them all in soccer and attended virtually every game or event I can when I am not traveling. I try very hard to give them presence and energy when I am with them. I’m not sure exactly what changed with me. But I’m glad something did.
With my kids, I try to maintain a balance of fun and discipline. I feel like they live a somewhat idyllic life and that worries me sometimes. They attend a private school, live in a big house, eat at fancy restaurants and go on vacations like these. I feel like they really lack for nothing. They are very happy kids and that’s a good thing. At the same time, it concerns me that they have faced little to no hardship or want in their lives. Sports are one answer. They all play soccer. And the soccer pitch doesn’t care how rich or poor you are. If you work hard and compete, then you will be rewarded. Same with the jiu-jitsu mat. And so, I try to use sports to teach them some discipline and the rewards of hard work. They have now all outgrown my ability to formally coach them in soccer but we still train together and I go pretty hard on them intentionally.
I’m not sure all parents feel this way but parenthood has caused me to lose any pretensions of being at all “cool.” I admittedly used to think I was. And now, that’s not even a thought in my mind. I am pretty goofy to the point that my kids make fun of me. I suppose a lot of dads are like that. It’s sort of in our nature to amuse our kids at our own expense. But today, even if I’m not with them, I just think of myself as a dad. Which is cool in its own right but not the kind of “cool” I used to fancy myself as being.
I hope that I first teach my kids love. That they know they have my complete love and always will. After that, I hope I teach my kids kindness through example. They spend lots of time with me and see how I treat other people. Then, I hope I teach my kids the value of hard work and commitment. They see how hard I work myself and I consistently try to teach them that through sports, school and life. Finally, I try to teach my kids awareness. We openly talk about the world and social issues. I never put my spin on things but let them come to their own conclusions.
And so today is Father’s Day. I’m not sure they have anything for me or anything planned. Or whether they will even remember unless I remind them. But that’s all okay and doesn’t matter. That’s kind of part of the deal of being a parent. Like I said before they always come first. And this year I have the greatest Father’s Day gift of all. I get to spend another full day and night with them having fun. Happy Father’s Day to all you great dads out there. I hope yours was as great as mine!