The highs and lows of trying to be a great father
Picture caption: “Where to next, dad?”
“Dad you are mean and you just don’t understand me. I really do not ever want to talk to you again and I want to move as far away as possible from you”, or something to this effect one of my kids bombarded me with a while back. Gah! Oh no, that was not at all how I pictured to be perceived as a dad. How in the world did I get here? In the end it is not as bad as you may think right now, but please take a walk down memory lane with me first and perhaps you can understand why such conflicts really hit me hard.
Turn back the time and let’s look at my childhood a little. My dad was an alcoholic and not at all a great guy to hang out with much less to be related to. His psycho terror and antics were legendary on the job and in the village. Eventually, I had to help mom and sis kicking him out and thus far I have not seen or spoken with him in well over 25 years. I swore to myself way back then that I would not be like him and that I would make sure my children – if I would ever have any – would love me. I aspired to become the most loved dad ever.
Turn back the time a little more to when my dad was barely 5 years old. It’s toward the end of WWII and his dad had been home from the front perhaps once or twice. The next time his dad Georg was supposed to come home was because he had gotten a case of “snow blindness” at the Russian front. That was not to happen evidently. Instead, he was sent to the front line in Austria as part of a last-minute make-shift heavy Flak unit that was supposed to hold back the Russian advances. From what Red Cross MIA report later found granddad never made it and he most likely fell in the last two to three weeks of the war in that region. A young dad who would never see his two kids and wife again.
Grandma and my dad and his slightly older brother had to flee from the Russians who were fast approaching Upper Silesia where they lived. That area eventually became Polish territory and today there is very little that reminds of Germans living there once. Fearing reprisals of the Russians the little family, or better what was left of it, fled westward with little more than what they could carry on their backs. Eventually, they were assigned a little apartment to live in once they made it to Western Germany close to where dad and mom eventually met and married. Dad never knew his dad and growing up without one turned out to be quite painful for him.
No way that I will be the third generation of a father being missing in action. That is exactly why I swore to be a better dad, one that sticks around through thick and thin, one that the kids could be proud of, one who would take pride in taking an active role in the lives of the kids, one who could be counted on being there for them in whatever crisis they may get into.
Well, let’s take a look forward into the present time again. What really happens nowadays with both of my children is not at all so dramatic. While it hurts me in my heart and soul when they rebel against their mom and dad, one key thing is different than with my dad and his: We will work these things out. The day after the rant described above started out with the mood getting better and we could speak about it in a constructive manner.
The drama that ensues from time to time is just a function of being teenagers. Middle and high schoolers go through some harrowing times. Hormones are setting in and the scary time of having let go of mom and dad finding themselves is incredibly scary.
The lesson I have learned my friends is this: Just because they rebel against you does not mean that they do not love you. Hanging in there is just another episode of being a great parent. Patience is a virtue that parenthood will teach you. In fact, make sure you try not judging them at all during this time of turmoil and trying empathy, compassion, and most of all large portions of love when dealing with them. It is not at all the time to pound them into the ground and “let them have it”. If you show them that you do not care or openly tell them that you don’t, then be advised that you may end up spending your old days alone without them. What will you choose to do?
Meanwhile, I just love watching my kids grow up and being in awe of their journeys thus far. They are slowly turning them into their journeys, which will mean another phase for me. Letting them go on their own will prove to be the most challenging test for me, and I am looking forward to that.
Happy Father’s Day! Here is a fabulous video for the occasion (click here for watching the video).