Someone once told me, “A lousy childhood needn’t sentence you to a miserable life.” As a corollary, I’d say that having a less than an optimal relationship with your father doesn’t mean you can’t be a great father for your own kids.
My older son’s dad had a father who adored his children, but he was deeply involved in running the family business and was in his forties by the time Mark arrived on the scene. And in those days, fatherhood was defined more in terms of being a good provider than spending quality time with your kids. Still, I remember Mark saying, “I kept wishing I had a dad who’d play catch with me.” In contrast, Mark made a point of spending lots of play time with our son and the two children he had with his second wife. He has always been a devoted and wonderful dad.
Likewise, my younger son’s father, my husband Alan, was determined to be a different kind of dad than his own had been. While Alan’s father loved his children, he was impatient, judgmental, and controlling. He considered Alan to be a disappointment because he preferred music to engineering. With both children, Alan was determined to be different. He made a point of offering unconditional love, acceptance, and encouragement for following their own dreams, as well as providing lots of play time and laughter.
Now that my two sons are all grown up and have become fathers, I’ve loved watching them be wonderful parents in their own way. Yet I see so many echoes from their own childhoods. I watch my older son Ed playing chase games or dancing with his little boy Milo at six AM, and I can’t help but think of all the hours Mark spent playing with Ed before and after work. And when I watch my son Joel spend hours playing basketball with his son Cameron, I remember Alan patiently teaching Joel everything he knew about the game.
Today and every day, I’m so thankful for the amazing dads in my family. And I celebrate all those dads who made a conscious decision to be better dads than the ones they’d had, as well as the fathers who had great role models and followed in their footsteps. What an amazing difference you make in your children’s lives!