On Father’s Day, before the teenage years, my kids would wake up early, you know, to show their love for me. At the time I thought the best way they could really accomplish that objective was by sleeping in, but today I’m sitting at my kitchen table, post run (and shower), on my third cup of coffee wondering when the heck they are going to wake up and get the party started. But this is the natural progression of events and I’m okay with it.
I’m a hands on kind of dad. I look forward to having adventures with my kids and I’ve learned a lot about myself through them. People tell me I’m a good father and, if I am, it is in no small part due to the influence of my own father on my life. For a Father’s Day reflection from the past, click here.
My father, along with my mother, provided the building blocks for me to be the father I am today. I do feel we learn how to be parents before our own children are born and the example my parents set for me and my siblings is a pretty good blueprint for how to be good at this parenting thing. Their nearly 60 year marriage continues to flourish and perhaps the best lesson I have learned about being a father is actually rooted in my role as husband. Someone once told me the best gift you can give your children is by being a loving husband to your spouse. My parents showed me how to do that and, for that, I am eternally grateful.
I find golf to be a good metaphor for life lessons and will share with you the following lessons my father taught me on the golf course and how they relate to parenthood:
- It doesn’t matter what you do on the range, it matters what you do on the course. The range isn’t real; there’s no pressure and shots don’t really matter. In parenthood, there is no driving range; it’s all played on the course and every shot matters. Sometimes on the golf course of parenthood you hit a ball straight down the fairway while other times you land in the rough. What truly matters is how you deal with whatever situation you find yourself in. I’ve learned over the years to listen with open ears and be more patient and understanding with the new challenges that are thrown at me as a parent. Sometimes I am successful (fairway) while other times I am not (rough). But I don’t walk off the course; I keep playing.
- Sometimes you have to play it safe. There are hazards everywhere on a good golf course and you have to avoid them in order to protect your score. They are not figments of our imagination, they are real and must be considered. In parenthood, we want to protect our kids from the hazards of life including the dangers of drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. but we can’t do that by pretending they don’t exist. We have to face them. Nicole and I talk to our kids about this stuff and, as uncomfortable as it can get, we have those hard talks.
- Sometimes you have to take risks. If you are in competition, you can’t always play it safe, you can’t always lay it up. In parenthood we want our kids to be the best they can be and oftentimes that means encouraging them to get out of their comfort zones. We have to teach them that taking risks can be a good thing for their own self development. Importantly we have to create an environment where failure is okay provided lessons can be learned from it.
- Use the right tools for the task at hand. On the course, you have to know what club to use when and that will be different for different players. I have three kids and, even though they are the same age, they all have unique skills and talents; they have strengths in different areas and the tool one uses in a specific situation will be different than the tool another uses. My job as a parent is to help them learn what those tools are and help them find the confidence to use them.
- A round is more than the summation of all the shots you take. Golf is not just about the number of times you hit the damn ball; it’s about the experiences you have when you are playing, the conversations with your friends and what you learn about yourself and others while playing a game. I want my kids to know that I am not keeping score of every little thing they do and that life has more meaning than the sum of their individual actions.
- If you what to score well, be sure to clean your balls. My father actually never said this to me and there is absolutely no reason to include this here except for the fact that I wanted to get a laugh out of you. Was I successful?