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By Forrest Hershberger
View From The Handlebars 

Fatherhood, Part 2 (sort of)

 

Last week I talked a little about the odd season, birthdays of my dad and my daughter, and the anniversary of my dad leaving this earth. I do need to clarify that even in the moments of remembering, sadness comes in moments, randomly, not in waves.

What also happened recently is hearing of a friend, another father, who was struggling. Somewhere in the words spoken and implied was the quiet question of “am I doing enough?” It is a question that haunts a lot of parents, not just fathers. It is an indication of how deep the love is. Someone who doesn’t care is alright with a C-average performance.

Parenthood, I would offer fatherhood specifically, is like researching and taking the test at the same time. You do your best based on the information you have, and the desired outcome, and on a good day see your “test results” that day.

Be warned, however, sometimes the “test results” don’t arrive until some time in the next generation.

Perfectionists who expect to turn a ship with a simple command will be disappointed. Children learn as much by observation as instruction.

By most accounts, our daughter Jill was a typical girl. She wasn’t a tomboy, with the exception of when her friend introduced her to horses. She could dress to the nine’s, but also scrap in defense of a friend who needed her support. She could argue like a seasoned attorney, but also cuddle like her mom, or dad, were all that mattered.


She also needed guidance, and correcting, like all children, and people in generation at one time or another.

I remember during that period of Jill’s funeral some of her friends told us they wished their parents had been as strict as we were with Jill. Keep in mind, our standard was not heavy-handed, but we worked to make sure she knew what was expected. It isn’t easy. Parents have to remember not to apply a discipline they are not comfortable with. One the “sentence” is spoken, it needs to be applied.


I think of my brother missing my dad. He wanted him to enjoy his grandchildren. He wanted him to see his legacy first hand, with human eyes. He did to some extent, when two of the grandchildren were young. They are now young adults pursuing their passions and doing what they can to change the world. I think my brother wanted to see our dad smile at his grandchildren’s accomplishments and their passions.


For us, we’ve enjoyed watching children grow into parents, children who valued us as adopted parents, and therefore allowing us some grandparent experiences.

Parenting is a journey that can change at any given moment. It is like aiming at a target that can change according to the situation. It is, however, about the relationship. Several years ago, when in a teaching situation, I learned that real education starts with a relationship. There needs to be enough of a relationship to trust the mentor or teacher. The same goes with the father-child relationship. Learning comes with the relationship. The father learns about development, what does and doesn’t work with specific children and hopefully when to step away. It comes with the father and child growing together.


For us, we often heard the phrase “parents shouldn’t bury their children. That is backwards.” Yes, it feels backwards. But we have to admit, we don’t want to let go of a parent anymore than we want to let go of a child. We don’t want to experience death breaking a relationship.

However, that is where the legacy is proven. It is proven by the campfire stories told in the future generations, of young cooks cutting the roast even though it fits in the pan (P.S .: It didn’t fit in grandma’s pan.)

We live according to what we know and what we’ve been taught. Be a teacher, a mentor, worth his legacy. Ultimately, our children will make their own choices. If we’ve done our best, left it all on the field, then we have nothing to be embarrassed about.


 

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