Hey all you cool cats and kittens! Is that still trendy and hip to say? No? Alrighty then. Let’s try this again…
Hi! I’ve always known the one job I wanted was to be a father. I never viewed this sentiment as a romantic thought expressed through bouts of poetry about the majestic journey of fatherhood. I just knew that I wanted to share what I would learn in this life with someone else who would be somewhat forced to listen to my wisdom (or babbling). Simple. Easy.
The day I became a father, however, I realized the true weight of what this job entailed. To be clear: the weight wasn’t from my new son, Jimmy. It was from expectations of what being father to a boy in today’s world holds. It was from the expectations that I had of myself to “be ready” for the job when the day came (news flash – I wasn’t). It was from the reality that I could totally jack this child up emotionally and damage the most important human being in my life. These thoughts manifested in me in the form of questions.
How do you remain truly present for your children while still showing them an example of work ethic? How do you protect them from danger while teaching them to have courage and take risks? How do you teach kindness without allowing them to let the world run them over? Basically, HOW DO I NOT SCREW THIS UP!?
After countless nights of lying awake scheming ways to skip the hard stuff and just be the perfect father figure, I finally concluded that it just isn’t fair. It’s not fair to Jimmy for me to pretend to hold myself to such a standard that isn’t reality. It’s also not fair to be assigned a specific role and playbook for what a father is supposed to be. Stoic, all-knowing, tough, provider, etc.
Jimmy DESERVES to see me fail. He deserves to see me fall short of my goals as a father, as a husband, as a human being! Most of all, he deserves to see me actively improving along the way. My wife, Kirsten, said it best when we discussed our goals as parents to our little boy. She said that if we do one thing right, and one thing only, our goal should be to teach Jimmy empathy for others – including for his parents.
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” The longer I have thought about this, the more I’ve realized that it is absolutely the most powerful thing we could ever teach Jimmy. It also, seemingly, happens to be at an all-time low in our culture today.
Now, for all the self-proclaimed ‘tough dads’ out there, having empathy does not imply a forced compliance with other people’s views or ideas. It does, however, imply that you consider their perspective before you impose yours onto then. After all, we know that oftentimes our perspective IS our reality. So why wouldn’t we take someone else’s reality into consideration before asserting a judgment?
What would the world look like if we viewed it as though everyone is doing the very best they can in that very moment and are in some way justified in how they feel or think based on their experiences? My sincere hope as a father is that Jimmy learns empathy for the world and leads with understanding for others before passing judgment.
The only way I can hope to teach him this is to aspire to do better myself and model it for him. To lead with curiosity before blame and to observe before critiquing. You deserve my best, Jimmy, and that’s what I intend to give.
Andrew Holder is a real estate broker and team leader at Keller Williams Realty Elite. He lives with his wife, one toddler and one fur-child in a historic district of the metro. Andrew is passionate about his family, his community and self-growth. He is also an avid supporter of eating breakfast for dinner.