Why I Father
As a child, I did not have much thought of being a father myself. Oh sure, maybe when I thought I was unjustly punished I visualized treating my kids perfectly in those moments, maybe even to just, “show my dad how it’s done”.
As a preteen and teenager I thought only of girls and playing shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I became more self absorbed as teenagers are want to do. I chased the ladies, did the minimum required by the school district, but just enough to stay qualified for sports and hung out with my friends when I could.
During those teenage years, my home life changed. I certainly had friends whose parents were divorced. Some split time between parents others lived with their moms. None of them, however, could really relate to the bizarre situation I was in.
In Jr. high, my parents moved us from Lancaster, Ca, (an Aircraft town 45 min north of L.A.) to Mesa, Arizona, which was a culture shock collection of suburban pleasantness laced with a heavy Mormon influence. This was an ideal place for my Mormon parents, who wanted us to be in a more accepting environment for our peculiar religious beliefs.
However, there was no major Aircraft industry in the greater Phoenix Area that met my Fathers advanced skills so after 16 years of either building or fixing military aircraft, my father had to find a regular job.
He worked at a doughnut shop chain in the early hours of the morning and then contracted with a local aircraft companies, but that was not making the rent, even with my mothers Registered Nurse income.
He attempted to open his own bakery with some of the recipes that my Grandmother gave to him from her own 20 year old successful bakery. He made a go of it, dragging me out of bed at 4:00 in the morning to help make the bread and rolls and get the shop ready before I rode my bike to Jr. High.
My father was not an entrepreneur, but I credit him for trying. The business closed after 6 months and he at the crossroads. It was either find a different line of business or go back to aircraft with his old company, where he was assured high pay and a great retirement. He had made his choice.
My stubborn Texas born, piss and vinegar mother made it clear that the family was not going back to Lancaster. There were bitter feelings there toward my Father’s family and my mother refused to be around them.
So he moved back alone. I was the son of parents who were separated by distance, not by love. I still don’t understand, to this day, how they did it. But they are still happily married.
This had a major effect on me, I was in my most volatile teenage years with no father around. I’m sure I felt abandoned or rejected, but I lived in a home of closed doors, so I’m not sure the depth of this effect. That is, until I faced major questions or challenges in my life.
It was maybe the summer before my Senior year in high school where I contemplated bigger things in my life. Do I stick with baseball? Play for some single A club and hope I make it like my Cousin Rick? Do I follow my new passion and find my way onto a stage acting and doing Stand-up comedy? Do I go on a mission?
I did not have my dad, present, to ask these questions too, and to be honest, I’m not sure he would have given me the advice that I needed. But, it was during these pivotal thought sessions, where I started to formulate my parenting philosophy.
It wasn’t a deep philosophy to begin with, it was a more detailed take on my childhood thought of “I won’t do that when I have my kids.”
I am now 41, pushing 42, and I am a divorced father of five children. Yes five! Their mother and I get along fairly well, as far as divorced couples go. But over the last 17 years, my parenting philosophy has solidified and progressed.
The title of the essay is “Why I Father” as to suggest that father is a Verb. I am here to tell you that Father “is” a verb. Being a father means constantly doing, constantly going, constantly listening, constantly observing, constantly counseling, constantly caring, constantly holding, constantly correcting, constantly rewarding, constantly discovering…and much much more.
When most people find out about home many children I have, the first thing they ask is if it was with the same woman. (sigh) The second thing out of their mouth is something to the idea that they could never handle it.
The reality is, that I had all of these children on purpose. I wanted to have a big family. I had the intention of being with their mother for the rest of our lives. But the best laid plans of mice and men…..
I father, because I believe that the only thing that we can give to this tumultuous world is the legacy that our children carry on. I am not trying to raise doctors or entrepreneurs or concert pianists. I am trying to raise children who understand that they are special, that doing hard things and making good choices allow them more options in the future.
I believe the greatest lesson that I can teach my children is the true value of freedom. I want them to understand that the choices that they make now will determine the quantity and quality of the options they will have in their future. I want them to understand that its not enough to have freedom, it is the the broadness of their freedom.
What I teach them is that true freedom is set up by the choices we make and the opportunities those choices create. Otherwise we are free to choose from a small bucket of options.
I believe if I can teach them this idea, then they will be able to truly discover who they really are, that they will be dynamic and loving people who love their fellow man and continually try to discover something new about themselves. I believe if they can internalize this concept they will change the world through the lives they touch.
I Father, because I believe that a person who goes through life, knowing that there is one person out there that loves them without hesitation and without judgement, true unconditional love, can do a great many things.