Roach: A dad is like a sculptor
Being dad is an honor, not a responsiblity
Everyone has a favorite holiday. Some folks get giddy about Christmas and start playing “Silent Night” the morning after Halloween. Others, like me, find the day after Christmas to be particularly joyful.
Conversely, there are those who favor Halloween, where for one night you can be someone, or something, else. New Years is for partying. Valentine’s Day: chocolate and romance. St. Patrick’s Day: redheads and beer. Cinco de Mayo: pride and diversity. The 4th of July: flags, oohs and aahs. Memorial Day: a solemn thank you. Thanksgiving: great food.
These are all special dates on the calendar, but none come close to matching my favorite day of the year.
Or, The Day of The Couch.
On Father’s Day, I know that odds are high I won’t be asked to take out the trash, move that sofa, check out the leaking downspout or run to PDQ and grab some milk.
During 24 fantastic hours in spring, I can be a lump on the couch and no one will say a thing.
On every other day of the year, a man gets only a certain amount of time to lump. The clock is always running. After a specific amount of time, which varies within each household and marriage, you will be asked to rise from the couch and actually do something. It doesn’t matter what, but a motionless man with the remote is a task waiting to happen.
But not on Father’s Day. On Dad’s Day, I could expire on the couch and no one would check my pulse until Monday morning. On this glorious day in June, there is sloth without guilt.
And there is another thing. On this greatest of days, a man gets to stop, ponder and savor his Dadness.
I’ve had a chance to achieve interesting things in life. Some accomplishments have brought notoriety, financial reward or quiet satisfaction. But none of those achievements match the welling in my chest that comes when I think about being the dad of my kids.
No other work in a man’s life compares to raising, molding, teaching, comforting and providing for a being from infancy to adulthood. Nothing. It can be challenging, frustrating, frightening and tedious. But it is also the greatest thing a man can do.
A dad is like a sculptor. Sculpting, unlike other art, happens over time. It requires patience, one chip at a time. It is further complicated by the fact that each child is a unique masterpiece. Sculpting a child is not an assembly line task.
Also like sculpting, there are times you step back and take a look from afar to be sure the work is good. Perhaps you add a nip or a tuck. A last parcel of wisdom. And then comes the day when your job ends and you set down your chisel so that your children can finish creating themselves in their own way.
It also has to be said that my Dadness experience has been infinitely better in partnership with a woman who taught me to be a better parent. It’s a special woman who knows when to whisper in your ear to tell you that one of your kids needs an extra touch of Pops.
And as is so often the case, my dad skills were also informed by my own father. He is now 87 years old, but if I were to distill what I learned from him down to one word, it would be “provider.”
I grew up in a different world than today. My dad was the sole wage earner. In our family’s early years, things were tough, yet he provided us food, shelter, clothing and education without interruption. I remember vividly a primal, quiet act performed by him; my dad would never fill his plate until all of his children were fully served.
But the biggest thing my dad provided was the simplest, most powerful act of all: presence. At all times, forever, whenever he was needed.
To succeed as a dad you have to be there–in proximity or in spirit.
And if you are, then you will know the secret of the Greatest Day of the Year.
Being a dad isn’t a responsibility.
It’s an honor.
Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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