As I sit here on my bathroom floor writing this my thoughts are turned to my own father. A man of incredibly hard, callused hands and a soft, gentle heart. My father is no longer with me in life. He passed away about 12 years ago but his memory and spirit continue to inspire me to be a better father every day.
I’ve heard people asked many times in my life what they feel they the most important thing their father taught them is. There is an answer that I’ve heard more often than any other. People often say, “My Dad taught me hard work.” Well, that’s not what my Dad taught me. Don’t get me wrong. My Dad was a hard worker and taught me how to work as well but that is not the most important, valuable or most impressionable thing her taught me.
The single most important thing my Dad taught me is that he loved me!
I cannot think of any other thing that has sustained me more in hard times or given me greater strength to make good and hard decisions in my life than this. My Dad taught me that a father has certain duties, certain responsibilities and obligations. He taught me that a Dad’s primary duties are the 3 p’s: Provide, Preside and Protect. He taught me these three things. He taught me what they mean and how to do them but more than anything he taught me that they are not a father’s burden, but his privilege. He didn’t treat them like an obligation. Duty turned to joy. I believe that a father has a responsibility to tend to these duties and yet the real magic of fatherhood and the father/child relationship happens when we move from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.”
Ultimately, I knew he loved me and so I listened. I knew he loved me so I asked his advice when I needed help. I knew he loved me so I accepted criticism constructively when I needed correction. When I messed up I knew he loved me anyway. When I succeeded I knew he loved me, not because I did well, but because I was his son.
My mom always described my Dad as a man of steal and velvet. Indeed he was. I hope one day I will be described similarly. I hope one day my sons and daughter will be asked what the most important thing their father taught them was and they will respond, “My father loves me!”