Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fatherhood: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Someone once said that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.

Well I say that whoever said that is wrong. Not just anyone can be a father. You have to be of the male persuasion. That is true regardless of the operation that my mother's stepsister "Ruby" had in the 1970's that turned her into her stepbrother "Rudy". So roughly 50% of the world's population can be a father and the other 50% have the potential to be mothers. These are good odds if you actually want to be a father or a mother. In addition, when I say being a father or a mother I really mean having someone to tag team with for the rest of your life as you raise your pride and joy(s), because parenting is similar to a cage match in pro-wrestling.

A little bit of background, I didn't know my father was alive until I was twelve, spent two weeks with him after high school graduation in 1976, and then two more times before he died in 1996. He was more of a sperm donor with visitation rights that he never exercised. My stepdad was better but only because he lived in our house. The examples of fatherhood that I experienced before 18 were less than stellar.

Okay, put the hankies down and quit feeling sorry for me.

At age 18, everything in my life changed, and it wasn't just my underwear. My conversion to the LDS faith changed my perspective when it came to fathers and that in turn changed my life. I have been surrounded by examples of fatherhood in the LDS Church, good and bad.

Grant Tracy was one of these good. Grant taught me to trust your children unless you had a reason not to. He showed me that by example when he didn't kill me and then hide my body when I kept his 17-year-old daughter out until 5:30am just before Stake Conference (pre-baptism) in May of 1977. Besides, he'd been down to my apartment and felt that the hood of her car was still warm. Many people thank their mothers for giving them life; I thank Grant for sparing mine. Thanks Grant, and I'm not saying it was her fault, I'm just blaming her.

Patience I learned from Bob Forrest. A teddy bear of a man with four daughters and one son. Sons are easy. One pre-teen and three teenage girls in one house, all with raging hormones, would be enough to make any grown man turn into a drooling idiot. Bob was a loving husband but he was also a great father who had earned the love and respect of his children with his example.

Bishop Kent Heaps and his family took me in for a year so that I could save money to go on a mission. Even though I'm still a work in progress at 50 years old he might have taught me the most. Late night discussions, powerful prayers, and his testimony, influenced a then 19-year-old boy and showed me how to be a husband and father. He was a living example to me every day. I may be one of the few people ever to get a Bishop's interview at 2am with the Bishop dressed in his pajamas.

I'm not sure what kind of father I've become; it really depends on the day or moment that you ask my kids. I was blessed with four children, one girl, and three boys. The first two came by way of a sperm donor, my wife brought them into the marriage, and together we had two boys. Whatever the mix, we are one family in this journey called life.

My kids love me but they don't necessarily like me all the time. I believe that's a fair assessment and I've learned to expect that as a father. To paraphrase Mr. Dickens "It's been the best of times, It's been the worst of times." I like to think it has mostly been the best of times. For without me there would never have been a King of Nintendo, no grape spitting contests for Family Home Evening, and I've definitely been around to say, "pull my finger". There would have been no frightened boyfriends, no one to flirt with their girlfriends, and no one to carry them from the car after a long trip while they fake that they're asleep. I've stayed up until one in the morning on a Sunday night to help complete the class project that they had two weeks to complete and procrastinated.

I was there when my little leaguer made a triple play (caught the popup, out, touched first base, base runner off bag out, throw to home, runner stealing home out), I cried like a baby in the MTC when my oldest boy went on his mission and I helped them buy their cars. I took my two oldest kids to their first rock concerts, agonized over the losses of friends and girlfriends, and I have fumed over new boyfriends. I have changed diapers over the years that bring a new meaning to the words "dirty bomb".

Fathers, as part of the parenting team, are one part of a human shield of protection around children. Slowly, as they grow older, we drop our shields a little and let them raise theirs to protect the new generation. Being a father is a bit like being Superman. Not that you're expected to leap tall buildings or stop speeding bullets, but they want you to. It's tiring, but we put on the cape everyday.

And yes, sometimes we're grumpy, short with you, heartless, cold, unfeeling, and it seems like we just don't care. However, we think of our kids during every step of their journey, even as we slowly melt into the background as they live their own life...

And wait for them to have our grandchildren so we can get our revenge.


Jen said...

Way to bring out the sentimental side with that one! And it was very well said - yet still humorous and entertaining.

And as a mother, I'd have killed you for bringing my daughter home at 5:30 in the morning.


(Ooops - I mean, WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!?)

HTF said...

Congrats on a great blog and getting it "published!" I just got a comment from "BrownCirus" - looks like someone u know. Fun how the world gets smallish every once in a while! Happy Father's Day!!