Every dad is different, every situation is unique, and every child is an individual with a different personality. So, how do we measure our success as a dad?
Parenting is not one-size-fits-all; what works for one child may be a completely ineffective approach for another, even within the same family. This makes it difficult to define success and set specific targets, but I do have at least one goal for myself in my role as a dad.
This past weekend was my younger sister’s 23rd birthday. As is the tradition in our family, and I’m sure many others, we got together for a birthday celebration at a restaurant of her choice. It was a familiar scene with my family when we’re out to eat because many of the same things happen.
You know you’re at one of our family gatherings when:
- My dad says something embarrassing to the server (embarrassing to us, not him)
- My dad becomes best friends with the server
- Someone gets really serious and sentimental for a moment (usually my mom, dad, or sister)
- Someone gets really uncomfortable about the sentimentality and makes a sarcastic comment to avoid feeling real feelings for too long (usually my brother or me)
- My wife tells my sister how excited she is to be her maid-of-honor someday
- My brother disagrees because he thinks he’ll be her man-of-honor (she tells him no)
- We all argue about whether Hudson will (be allowed to) play football when he’s older
- YES: me, my dad
- NO, safety concerns: my wife, mom, sister
- NO, he’s running on the cross country team: my brother
- The table next to us has seen two groups come and go because we’ve been there so long
- The night does not end at the table, but the party moves to the front of the restaurant where my wife and sister are doing an impromptu photo shoot with her birthday balloons (yes, she did indeed order the birthday package from the restaurant for herself)
We genuinely enjoy being with each other. No one is there out of obligation. We laugh, we reminisce, we quote movies, we make fun of each other, we catch each other up on our lives.
We take these gatherings for granted because it really does feel like we’ll never stop having them, but someday we will.
As I write this, my three children are all sleeping in cribs, with footy pajamas on. It’s hard to picture them any other way, but before we know it, they’ll turn 23.
My goal as a father
Regardless of the different paths they’ll take, my hope, my prayer, my goal is that they want to come back home. That they would enjoy the time they spend with us and with their siblings. That no matter what happens, they would always know that their dad loves them and wants to be with them.
So whether this sounds like your family or couldn’t be further from your reality, know that what you do as a dad matters. We won’t be perfect, it’s not possible. But your kids don’t need perfection, they need the support, encouragement, and the love that only a dad can provide.