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Happy Father’s Day to America’s scared, excited, unorthodox dads



From this dad to all the dads and soon-to-be dads: Let’s admit it, Father’s Day is one of those “holidays” that even dads are laid back about.

As a young man, I never thought much about being a father — except to the extent that I was planning to become a priest. So as my dad moved from moment to moment in my life, it never occurred to me that he was planting little seeds of inspiration and wisdom that I would one day come to rely upon when raising my own two sons.

Let’s admit it, Father’s Day is one of those “holidays” that even dads are laid back about.

It may have seemed at times as if my dad were trying to plan things for me. He was — and he wasn’t. As Shakespeare observed, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” And what I have come to realize is that for many dads, those teachable moments are more fleeting than we think. All too often, I think dads don’t fully accept that our “little one” is becoming an adult — that is, until we demand our sons shave that “mess” off their face or tell our daughters they’re “not going out dressed like that.”

As a dad, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate that our journey from infancy to adulthood was as scary for our fathers as it was for us. And for many dads, well, that journey remains one of great joy, anticipation, and trepidation because despite the knocks he takes (and sometimes inflicts upon himself) he still wants to protect his children and ultimately help them become the best version of themselves.

Ultimately, being a dad is not about biology or about asserting authority over a child, or even being their friend. Rather, it’s about raising the next generation of children to respect themselves as well as others. It is about molding the character of the adult that child will be some day.

It’s an uneven, sometimes unorthodox process. I spent the first two years of my kids’ life teaching them to walk and talk and the next 16 years hoping they’ll sit down and be quiet. And, of course, the quickest way to get a child’s attention is to say “No!”

But I guess sometimes a little unorthodoxy is a good thing, particularly as society pushes conflicting and dangerous signals regarding morals and responsibilities. In dealing with my own sons, I have found myself appreciating how my dad helped me define what it means to be strong, faithful and conscientious in the face of such challenges.

Sometimes a little unorthodoxy is a good thing, particularly as society pushes conflicting and dangerous signals regarding morals and responsibilities.

This Father’s Day, I want to send a message to all the fathers out there who care more than they sometimes show, or who are at times emotionally absent even when physically present: The fear, and the excitement, is normal. Sure, we know one day our kids will leave for places far from home — maybe too soon for their mothers and not soon enough for us. All we can do is prepare them, so that they go out into that world equipped with the love, lessons and faith that were once passed down to us.

Finally, don’t underestimate your wisdom in whatever forms it takes. When your child comes to you with some of life’s most complex problems, don’t panic! Think back to your own childhood and recall that time-honored answer passed on to you by your father: “I don’t know, go ask your mother.”

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