With it being Father’s Day, it seemed fitting that I write a post about fathers. Especially our role in our children’s lives. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it all boils down to where we stand: in front of, beside, or behind.
In Front Of
This is where we were meant to be. The front lines. The point of the spear. The first to take a blow. The first to fall. All pain, physical or emotional, must go through us before it reaches our children. We are the shield that should give them comfort.
As a child we used to go to fishing in Morganza along the levee road. This area had some great fishing and was where I caught my infamous fish. On one particular trip, my sister Wendi & I were down by the water when a bull decided we were dangerous to the other cows. Let me put this in perspective. Wendi was probably around 5 years old & I was about 7, and we had a combined weight of less than 80 pounds. But here we were, our backs against the water and facing a bull who was pawing the ground, snorting and ready to skewer us at any minute.
Evidently one of us started screaming like a little girl (probably Wendi) which caught my dad’s attention. The next thing I remember was him stepping in front of us and walking towards the bull screaming bloody murder. Now my dad is a strong man, was raised on a dairy farm, and had no fear of cows or bulls. But as a little boy, all I remember is him facing down that bull and the bull backing down. He was our shield.
You know how in the movies the superheroes stride into the battle side by side? That’s the way I have felt about my family for years. Sure it helps that we are all relatively tall and in good shape, but it’s more of an attitude thing. A combination of determination, confidence and will power has pushed us all to strive to be the best we can at whatever we tackle.
Over the years I worked with my dad in business and with the Masonic Fraternity. Working beside him gave me a sense of confidence, respect and pride because we were able to tackle some difficult things and accomplish them together. Since then I have had the pleasure of working with Lara & Mason on different projects and have had the same feelings. Having them toe the line next to you shows that you have confidence in them.
This is the position that a father does not like to be in. He stands there with equal parts distress and pride. This is when your child has to face their battles by themselves. And you have to allow them to do it.
Every hit they take causes you to wince. Every time they fall, your heart stops until they stand back up. And for every obstacle or difficulty they face, you want to throw yourself in front of them and take all the pain. But you can’t. You are not allowed to. It is part of life. It is their life.
When I was in Junior High, I ran into some trouble with a local kid who we will call Inglebert (not his real name). He was actually a friend of mine. We had an “issue” during a backyard football game that got ugly, so I bailed and headed home. Over the next week, Inglebert harassed me on the bus and at school. Things were not going well. Especially for me. The problem was he was two years older and had me by about 80 pounds.
The next Saturday morning, my dad asked me to go to the store with him. Great! Maybe we would go to TG&Y where I would spend an hour looking at fishing stuff. Nope. Not TG&Y. We pulled up in front of Inglebert’s house and my dad said get out. I’m sure the blood drained from my face. We went up to the door and he knocked. When Inglebert’s father came out, my dad explained the situation and said he was not leaving until we dealt with the problem. As a reminder, this was in the mid 70’s so dealing with this type of problem meant fisticuffs.
My father was prepared to stand behind me as I faced off with Inglebert. And I was prepared to fight as hard as I could knowing my dad was standing behind me. But Inglebert backed down. We shook hands and left as friends again. But I still remember the feeling knowing my dad was behind me and I have since felt it with my kids.
Somehow I hope to think my children have been so successful because they know that Christine & I are behind them. I can’t imagine too many kids can fight to get into medical school like Lara has without knowing someone was behind them. And I know I couldn’t uproot, move 10 hours away, juggle getting a college education and college swimming without some support like Mason has.
Later this year will be one of the happiest/sad days of my life. Lara is getting married and I get the pleasure of standing beside her as we walk down the aisle. But then I must once again resume my position behind her. From pride to love to fear to joy, that transition will have it all.
In recent years, I have definitely been relegated more and more to the “behind them” stance. And that is fine. Such is life and a part of raising amazing kids. But I do know this…………if the bull shows up and challenges my children, I will be there. And trust me when I say this, we will be eating steaks that night.
To all the fathers out there, enjoy your day. Love your children, protect them, comfort them and respect them. And things will turn out all right.