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“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” 
― Umberto EcoFoucault’s Pendulum


Fatherhood is where I found myself. I don’t claim to be a great father. Sometimes I don’t even think I’m a particularly good one, but I am always working at it.

One thing that I used to do was work too hard at it. I approached it like learning the guitar – practice, study, practice, study, and steal as much as I could from others who were clearly gifted at it. I was terrified of making a mistake, of hitting a wrong note. I believed that I would say or do something that would damage my kids. Then I started to realize that yes, I was going to do that. But not in any kind of conscious way – therapy is, I fear, in this modern world, inevitable.

I also realized that all of the deliberate stuff I was trying to do to be a good father, to impart wisdom and knowledge of value unto my kids, that was mostly wasted effort too. It’s not those deliberate things we consciously plan out that end up leaving the biggest impression. It’s who we are every day. It’s how we respond in the tiniest moments.

So, instead of working on being a father, I decided to work on being me. That isn’t any easier. Entropy and inertia rule the universe. Or, to put it another way, randomness and laziness are our preferred states of being. Objects at rest tend to watch too much baseball… or something. I think they call that one Newton’s third law of spring training.

Mostly, I just work on being present. I lost my own father almost 20 years ago, just as I was getting to know him. He was not present, often even when he was in the room with me growing up. I miss him keenly a few days out of the year – father’s day, my birthday and his birthday mostly. I miss him because we’d begun to have a relationship when he died. And it was a good one. We laughed a lot together. I would have liked more of that.

Happy father’s day, dads. You may suspect it, or even know it, but it bears repeating – You are important. Your love is different from the love your spouse gives because it comes from you. Give it freely to your children because they need it very much.

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