As a person who majored in political science and has been engaged actively in public
Many times over the years, I have said that the most important role I have played in my life has been that of being a father. My wife Joyce and I have been blessed with three wonderful children, who are now 25, 20, and 18 respectively: two boys and a girl.
Many people have told me I was a “good father.” While I have acknowledged that remark as the compliment it was intended to be, I also have had the odd reaction that it always carried with it the implication that being a father was a dreary, thankless duty, which it has never been for me.
The secret of being a great parent is not all that secret in one sense. It is about loving your children unconditionally, and, as the old saying goes, “giving them roots and wings.” However, the part about being a parent that is not often discussed in commentaries about parenting is the degree to which we are shaped by the interests our children choose.
If our children are interested in competitive sports, we become coaches, team fathers and mothers, and, most of all, informed fans about that sport. If our children choose to play musical instruments, we become music fans. If our children are debaters, we learn about the skills of debating and the subjects about which they debate.
What made the lives my wife and I have led so enriching was the degree to which our children chose unusual interests that led us to new worlds we would not have found on our own. Our older son became interested in the performing arts, and did music, stand-up comedy, improvisational comedy, drama, and, now, a feature film. I am now deeply immersed in producing a feature film for which he wrote the screenplay.
Our younger son played baseball, for which I became a coach, was in the Boy Scouts, for which my wife became a member of the local board, and played chess, which took us into the strange and interesting world of both scholastic and professional chess. He also is an entrepreneur who has gotten me to understand far better than I ever could have on my own the worlds of online commerce and social media.
Our daughter played the harp, the flute, and the piano, studied Chinese, played tennis, and, more recently, became passionate about neurological research. She also studied Spanish one summer in Costa Rica. She did extensive solo and ensemble performing as a harpist, and took us into the world that research scientists and philosophers inhabit.
We saw none of their activities solely as “hobbies,” “college credentials,” or “children’s interests.” We did whatever we could to expose them to the people who were best at what they did. That accomplished two purposes: first, it communicated to them that we believed they could succeed and that we were prepared to support them; but, also, second, that succeed in any field requires that an individuals pay a huge price to achieve success. Our message was simple: you can be or do anything you want if you understand the price you have to pay and are willing to pay that price.
The great news about being a father is that it does not stop when children leave home to go to college or to enter the working world. This spring, our younger son informed us that he wanted to spend his spring break in Ecuador and his summer in China. We supported both trips, but, more important, we were able to learn about Ecuador and will get a current and ground-level view of a summer in Shanghai when he returns on August 1.
Our daughter is spending a few weeks in Italy and Spain before she prepares for her college orientation, and she wants to expand her knowledge of philosophy and science. Undoubtedly, she and my wife, who are planning to spend more than two weeks in Europe, will be absorbing far more insight than they currently imagine.
Our older son is doing more film, video, and other projects and will draw us into his world as we move more deeply into a fast-changing entertainment industry. Because he celebrated his 25th birthday this past week, two days before our daughter graduated from high school, we always say that we celebrated our silver anniversary as parents.
Obviously, the key to my enjoyment of being a father was and is the support my wife Joyce has given us all. She is the glue that holds our family together, and she has done the hard work of dealing with all of our emotional ups and downs, and the management of our children’s physical and emotional health during their lives. Our life has not been free of challenges and conflict at times, but she has freed me to focus more on the fun part of being a father.
This is a day in which children honor fathers, but, to me, it is a day in which I reflect on how grateful I am to have had children and a wife that have enriched my life in so many different ways. The great news is that I have reason to celebrate being a father every day for the rest of my life.