Dads, to some deserved degree, don't get very much credit in the grand scheme of parenting. According to Census.Gov, "In 2011, 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother". Traditionally speaking, we are responsible for bringing home the majority of the income, although that has changed dramatically within my generation.
According to The US Census Bureau, "one out of every three (children) live in biological father-absent homes". This, as fatherhood.org has put it, is a crisis. But today, as I say good night to my two boys, want to celebrate the fathers who did stick around, who have been able to avoid tragedy to be there as the father figure that every child should grow up with. Amongst all of the statistics of dads not being there, there are a large number of us who are.
Unfortunately, so many dads never get the chance to see their child grow up. I am encouraged to be a better father because my best friend never had the chance to. 3 weeks before his son was born, he passed away in a motorcycle accident. To this day, I wonder what the world would be like for that young man if his father would still be here. Fortunately, his widow has remarried a wonderful man and that child will always have a father who is there for him. Still, much of what I do is to honor his name and ensure that, if I am so fortunate to have him looking down on me, he is proud of the things I have done to give my sons the best life possible.
Two songs that I liked growing up seemed strange to be in my "favorites" list. Everclear had a song called "Father of Mine" and LL Cool J released a song called "Father". To backtrack a little, I love my dad and look up to him for so many reasons. He wasn't around a ton as we were growing up because he worked nightshift at a gold mine, making sure that we had what we needed to succeed. Once we got old enough, he started coaching our soccer and baseball teams, even though he knew nothing about soccer and very little about baseball. It wasn't about being "dad of the year" - it was about being present. My brother and I notice that and appreciate it by paying that forward within our own lives.
So why did I like these songs (and still do)? The more and more I think of it, it makes sense. Listening to Everclear and LL Cool J talk about how hard it was growing up made it easier for me to appreciate a dad who was, and still is, doing the very best he can to give us a better life than he had. For that, Dad, I thank you. I thank you for always treating mom with respect, for never giving up on the family, and working through tough times to make things work. We didn't have everything, but we had enough to reach for our dreams.
Once again, the reality hits home for far too many of our kids. For me, I loved this song because no matter how frustrated or overwhelmed my dad was, he always came back and made his two sons feel like they were his world. As teachers, as men, we have an opportunity to be positive role models for so many kids whose dads are no longer around. Not just the ones who walked out or simply "gave (them) a name", but ones who were always gone on business, passed away, were military men, or so many other reasons that kept them from partaking in the honor of watching their children grow.
How about A, a kid who lost his dad to an internal battle with himself, leaving behind a wife and three young kids? A is now a sophomore in high school, achieving grades and accolades in band and working harder than I've ever seen, all while being supported by his family (and me on the sidelines). I'd like to think that somewhere along the line, he was able to look for a male role model of how to strive for success. He is on his own path to achieve exactly that.
There will be plenty of times in which I let my own children down for one reason or another. Whether it is telling them no to something they want or missing a class activity that they really wanted me to attend, I'm certain that I will be far from a perfect father. At the same time, I will treat them with the same expectations that I held for the 185 children that I had the honor to teach every year.
All I can really hope for is that I celebrate the successes, encourage the struggles, and embrace the challenges of my own children the same as the students that walked through my classroom for the past 7 years. After all, this is the Dad Life.