When I became a father, I felt being a wise and dedicated dad was the best type of father to be for my sons. I didn’t consider just being me was an option.
I grew up with a ‘wise dad’; he was pretty handy and could fix most things. He had a deep perception about life and was always there to offer advice. He’s not perfect of course, he has his own insecurities, blind spots and quirky character traits like the rest of us, but his love and dedication to his children is unquestioned.
As I the wise and dedicated dad, I,
- took up the role of breadwinner
- was there if something needed to be fixed around the house
- was on the committee of the kids’ primary school
- was dropping them off to various activities
- would tell them made up stories at bed time
- was happy to share little ‘factoids’ about life and give them advice.
But in truth, I was missing the most important element of fatherhood… just being me…
You see, being the ‘wise and dedicated dad’ means that to be useful I had to have something to do, something to fix, some advice to give. This means at some level I was always looking for the problems, always looking for what was broken and not working.
My need to be the ‘wise and dedicated dad’ actually meant that I was not being ME with my sons, which is what they really want and enjoy (well, daggy Dad jokes aside).
The times I am beginning to appreciate the most – and I notice my two sons respond to the most – are the times when I’m not trying to be the wise and dedicated dad, but just being me.
These are the times:
- when we sit around the dinner table and just chat about our days
- when I allow myself to deeply see the beautiful men my sons are becoming
- I spend time with them, without needing to show them anything, but just hang out.
As my two sons move through their teenager years and they start making their own choices, I can see the hurt and sadness in their eyes at having had a father living in such close proximity to them, but at the same time being unavailable unless I was telling, teaching or showing them something.
As I see these feelings in them, I see and feel the same feelings within me from my own childhood and what it is like to be close to someone and at the same time not really ‘be with’ them. Of course as I look deeper, I see what my Dad’s father was like and I can get the sense of this lineage of ‘wise and dedicated dads’, all who do everything they can for their kids and families but who use that responsibility to avoid just being themselves.
What a setup we have fallen for, to think for a moment that dedication can be found in what we do and the wisdom can be found in what we know, rather than the dedication that comes from the love we have for ourselves and the wisdom that comes from that very same place.
The process of undoing the harm that was caused by growing up with and becoming a ‘wise and dedicated dad’ is still ongoing and I have to dodge the part of me that still wants to make it about ‘doing’ stuff to fix it, rather than just being me with my dad or my kids, regardless of what we do.
By Joel Levin, Western Australia