My life changed forever on August 29, 1979, when my wife Peggy delivered a baby girl and turned me into a father. As I held that helpless babe, with her cute little pudgy nose and wrinkled face, I was overwhelmed by an awesome sense of responsibility.
I knew I was not cut out for this. Patience? Nurturing? Setting an example? This poor kid had no clue what I had gotten her into. But I sure did love that little girl, so I resolved to do my best as a father, however inadequate that might be.
Eighteen months later, Peggy blessed me again, this time with a son. Now there were two young minds full of mush, depending upon us for wisdom, guidance and encouragement! The stakes were getting higher all the time, and I really wasn’t feeling any wiser or more patient or confident.
I failed a lot. Too often, I was impatient with my children. There were too many times that I was so wrapped up in something else that I didn’t give my kids the attention they deserved.
Sometimes I was so tired at the end of a long day that all they got was a quick kiss and a hug before bed, instead of a proper dose of fatherly TLC. I knew I should be doing better, and I prayed frequently that God would help me improve.
Yet in spite of my paternal shortcomings, we had some great times together. We spent many long summer afternoons at the beach. We camped all over the state of Indiana. We had balloon fights and flew kites and shot off fireworks and sometimes we had long, long talks at bedtime. (I knew they were just stalling because they didn’t want to go to sleep, but I didn’t care.)
We played baseball and Frisbee and made popcorn and chased the dog and sang silly kids’ songs and caught lightning bugs and lit sparklers and blew bubbles and jumped in leaf piles and made snow forts. They used to love to dance for me in the living room while we listened to my old Beatles’ albums.
Those kids were a lot of fun.
So even though I failed at times, there were many times that things were okay. And somewhere along the way I realized that my children would survive the ordeal of living with their imperfect grumpy dad, because they knew that I loved them and they knew I did the best that I could.
As the years rolled by I actually started to think that I was getting the hang of this father biz. And darned if those two little munchkins didn’t grow up on me!
My kids have been out on their own for years now, and it’s been quite a while since we’ve blown bubbles or sang silly songs together at bedtime. But I’ve got memories enough to last me a lifetime, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Thanks to my kids I now have a grand-daughter and three grand-sons, and I get to re-live the past with my grandchildren. They are young enough to still enjoy blowing bubbles, singing silly songs and jumping in leaf piles.
I am absolutely convinced that a grandchild is God’s consolation prize for getting old.
And now, thank God, I am a mellower version of young Dave. My son Steven once asked, while I was patiently enduring some crazy thing my grand-kids were doing, “Where was this guy when I was growing up?”
Well, that guy was (and is) still under construction. God had an extra 25 years to wear me down before the grand-kids came along.
Watching my kids grow up was one of the great blessings of my life. They taught me things I could never have learned from anyone else. They filled my heart with a love I had never known before. God used (and still uses) them to touch me in a special way.
Now that I’ve had my shot at child-rearing, I realize that none of us are truly up to the task. We each carry our own hang-ups and misconceptions into the job, and we all stumble through parenthood doing the best we can. What else can we do?
Many times while I was growing up, I butted heads with my father. He was often insensitive and overly critical. On countless occasions I was sure that he was wrong and I was right. He once made me so angry that I didn’t speak to him for over a year.
Looking back now, who was right or wrong doesn’t seem to matter as much. I don’t agree with everything my father did, but I know that he loved me, and I know that he did the best he could.
So, allow me a moment here to give him some overdue posthumous credit: Dad, thanks for raising me and loving me.
Thanks for working two jobs and keeping me fed. Thanks for doing the best you could.
Now I understand how tough that can be.