The title of this post is an exact quote from my wife. Thanks, honey?
It’s a borderline offensive thing to say, but she’s right. No one knew I’d be, let alone expected me to be, a great dad. Or even a good one. Not her. Not you. Least of all me.
Okay. Maybe least of all you.
I’m not even sure I am a great dad. Or a good one. I just know I’m trying.
It’s not that I’m some colossal screw-up, though that may be true. I just don’t know that I’ve ever met a guy who I’d have pegged as a great candidate for fatherhood, at least not before the fact. Most guys I grew up with and hung out with and went to school with were clowns. Huge, ridiculous clowns. I mean, one guy drops his pants every other time he gets drunk, just for laughs. (Don’t worry: he doesn’t have kids. YET.)
This isn’t a judgment: most of us were out-and-out idiots – misbehaving and goofing off and getting drunk and being irresponsible – as we made our way through young adulthood and early adulthood and arrested development-hood and eventually got married. We were kids; we didn’t exactly project as future dads of the year.
But here I am, approaching my second Father’s Day as an actual dad, and getting backhanded kudos from my wife.
With all the constant curve-balls and guesstimating and finger crossing, it’s not really easy to know if you’re doing it right. I suspect I won’t really know for decades. But I enjoy it, and I love hanging out with my son, and he hasn’t told me he hates me yet, and my wife says I’m a good dad, and that’s basically good enough for me. Because I realize that there’s no perfect version of fatherhood, I’m content to continue to be myself and raise my kid according to my best instincts and occasionally some input from my wife but not much because HE’S MY SON GET OFF ME!
For some guys it can take years before they realize they even have a kid and then adjust their lives accordingly. But it’s usually faster than that, unless you’re an asshole. But, like more and more dads these days, I’ve been all-in from the get-go. And while my son may not eventually be a better person for all my added attention and involvement, I’m definitely a better dad because of it.
Going into this thing I’d have put even odds on myself flaming out spectacularly. And with less than two years under my belt, I’d say that that bet is still live. Because a lot of crap is going to come my way as I continue to learn how to be a father to my son; complicated, uncomfortable, unforeseen crap that will not be any fun at all. But I’m ready to deal with all the stuff that sucks about being a dad, and all the stuff that sucks about having a kid (see my entire blog for a list). Because I like being a dad.
And I like it even more when someone who’s in the trenches with me tells me I’m not blowing it.
Because that’s really all that matters: not blowing it. It’s not how often you embarrassed yourself in college or how long it took you to get your act together after graduation or how many times you woke up with soiled underpants or no underpants or someone else’s underpants. Even Atticus Finch made some mistakes as a kid (though probably not involving underpants).
No one starts out as a great dad, but that doesn’t matter. It only matters that you end up as one. And all that really requires is that you give a shit. Most of the dads I know – including the majority of clowns I grew up with – definitely do.
So Happy Father’s Day to me and all the other former screw-ups-turned-responsible-dads out there.
Don’t blow it.