We might all secretly want to be like Charlie and Andy (www.howtobeadad.com)—witty and handsome and casually brilliant, the quintessential young, hip dads. And there are definitely moments when I still believe that I just might be a lot like them, like when I step out of the shower and catch my reflection in the mirror, flexing my muscles and pretending I’m Superman. I make smoldering expressions and set my jaw, momentarily enjoying the imposing reflection looking back at me. But then something interrupts my fantasy, like my seventeen-year-old son walking by my door and casually remarking that my once washboard stomach now looks like a pouch where I store my extra cookies.
There was a time when I thought I was super cool, when I thought, Hey, I’ll bet all those other dads on the playground are jealous because I’m so athletic and young and handsome and so good with my boys. I like to live in this unrealistic, parallel universe as often as possible, relishing in the memory of the stud I like to believe I was before I had kids. And it’s in this altered state of consciousness when I often make my biggest mistakes.
Kids have a fantastic way of reminding you that you are now a Yoda shell of your former self—like the time I took my teenage boys snowboarding for the first time. I said to myself, You are a former Berkeley Rugby Champion who led his team to a national title. You’re an athlete. You got this. You can certainly snowboard. So I took to the hill with the same wild abandon as my boys, only to realize that no, perhaps my body doesn’t move in the same limber, noodle-like way that comes so effortlessly to teenage boys. I lost my battle with the board, caught an edge, and slammed my body face-first into the ice, breaking three ribs. I spent three weeks silently cursing my hope to be a super cool dad, each breath like a shard of glass in my chest—but even more so to my ego.
A second time I realized that I wasn’t such a super cool dad was when I learned that my boys’ favorite way to impress new acquaintances was to tell them stories about my delinquent past. “Oh my dad is so awesome,” they’d say, huge grins on their faces as my chest swelled with pride, only to finish the sentence with “Dad, tell them about the time when you got arrested at Stanford for stealing the sign off the Maples Pavilion!” There was an awkward silence after that as the new pastor for our church quickly excused himself to “attend to an important matter,” and I wondered at the lessons my children had picked up about the art of social graces, quietly concerned that they may have in fact inherited my delinquency themselves.
But perhaps nothing drives home for a man that he is not super cool more than the day when he loses his hair. I was very proud of my Afro in my twenties. I took great pride in shaping it and using a pick to make it perfect. (Ok maybe I’m admitting too much here). But I’ll never forget the day when, at the tender age of 27, I went to the hairdresser and asked for a trim, same length all over and let it curl back in. My bold, imposing, female, black hairdresser leaned down, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Boy, you keep cuttin’ your hair like that and you gonna look like Bozo!” That was the day I knew: it was time to shave it all off. But if that weren’t enough to kill my already fragile ego, these days when I casually remark that I need to go and get a haircut, my boys love to say, “Why? You don’t have any hair.”
Kids definitely have a way of driving home the fact that you might not be a super cool dad. But whether I ever again may be considered cool or not, I do know how much I love my kids, and that they love me. And maybe that’s all that really matters, anyway.
Here to Help
If you want or need some help being the dad you want to be, even if it doesn’t mean being super cool, I’m here. Please leave a comment and I will respond.
Close relationships with your kids that allow for and invite these fathering moments do not happen by chance. They are planted as seeds early on, nurtured throughout their lives, and carefully managed when your kids need a father’s love. I’ve coached and taught hundreds of dads how to do this. I’m here to help you if you want help. The easy-to-master fathering skills I teach work wonders for busy dads, married or not, who want to be great dads. Check out my FREE training videos for more.
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P.S. My oldest son just started martial arts. I think I might try that next. I’ve heard you don’t even need hair for that.
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