The following was syndicated from aaroncolen.com for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
I’m much like you in my mannerisms, the way I talk, the way I think, the way I socialize. I react to things the same way. It startles me sometimes, because I’ll say or do something and it feels like déjà vu because I’ve seen it so vividly from you as a child.
Now, I’m about to become a father. Any day now I’ll have a daughter. That’s made me realize that I didn’t just inherit your demeanor or characteristics on a surface level.
I’ve inherited the DNA of being a great father from you. You taught me how to be a parent without ever giving me a word of parenthood advice.
You never missed a day of work. You never prevented my brother and I from hanging out with you while you worked on the computer or watched sports. You taught us how to shoot layups in basketball at the park or in the driveway. You let us sit in the driver’s seat of the car and touch the steering wheel and feel like we were driving.
You taught me that a parent doesn’t care what their child has done more than they care about their child.
You never let us question whether we were taken care of. You allowed us to take for granted that we would have money and food, because you were so dependable that it just felt like those were things people automatically had.
Every job and promotion I’ve gotten is because I work like you. I learned how important it is to show up every day, wear clean pressed clothes, and tuck in my shirt. I learned how to be quiet and focus in on getting something done. You taught me how to be a professional. Again, you taught me that without me ever knowing I was being taught.
At my lowest moment in life, when I sat in our den with you and mom as a 20-year-old man and completely broke down as I confessed the mistakes I had made, it was you who grabbed me by the shoulders and held me tight as I cried. You taught me that a parent doesn’t care what their child has done more than they care about their child.
Everything you did, both big and small, was a more than just an action. It was a lesson that I can draw on as I raise Sophia. Now I know that all I have to do is love her, include her, and show her that nothing about my love is conditional. In many ways, she’s going to become whatever I show her. All I have to do, like you did for me, is show her something worth becoming.
All these remembrances bring me comfort as I approach parenthood. I’ve been telling myself all this time that I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’ll just be learning as I go. But now I know that’s not really true. You subtly but powerfully taught me everything I need to know about what it means to be a father. And even now, you’re still teaching.
Thank you for more than 2 decades of hands-on parenting classes. And thank you for 27 years of being a hands-on parent.
Aaron Colen usually writes about Christianity, but sometimes other things. Author of Witness Culture.