So I had an interesting thought occur to me yesterday as my kids brought me breakfast and fun gifts. (I especially liked my eight-year-old’s coupon for a car wash. He amended it by saying that I couldn’t use it until he was big enough to actually wash the car—say twelve or so. But he’d be happy to cash it in for teaching me to play Warcraft 3.)
Actually my wife and I don’t make such a big deal out of traditional holidays like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. We prefer to do fun gifts or dates for each other when we feel like it. Not when the calendar says we have to. We especially like going on shopping sprees the day after holidays.
Nevertheless, my kids spent the days leading up to Fathers Day asking me what I wanted them to give me. I was not only thinking about what I wanted from my kids, but what I was going to do for my own father. And suddenly a thought struck me with such force, I could barely believe it hadn’t occurred to me before.
Growing up—and even being a grown up for that matter—I’ve always wanted to impress my parents. Impress may be the wrong word. But I think you know what I’m talking about. Most of us have someone in life we want to please. It could be a parent/s. It could be a mentor. A spouse. A loved one. A boss. It’s the person we go to when we do something good and say, “Hey, look what I accomplished.”
Throughout my life, there are certain times I’ve been really excited to tell my parents what I accomplished. The big job. Publishing my first book. Buying my first house. Getting a promotion. Completing a marathon. These are the moments when you get to say, “Look! I’m not a complete screw-up after all.” All this time, I’ve just assumed those are the moments when my parents would be most proud of me.
But yesterday, I was thinking about the things I wanted my own children to accomplish, and I realized those aren’t the things I care about at all. Yes, I’ll be happy for my kids if they get a good paying job. But I’ll be much happier if they love the job they have and do it well. I could care less about how big their house is. But I care a lot about how they treat their spouse and children. It doesn’t matter to me if they follow in my footsteps and write books near as much as it matters how they treat other people.
Maybe this makes me odd, but I’m much prouder of my kids when I hear they are the ones who befriend the less popular kids than I am if they score a winning touchdown or get the lead in the play. I give my son crap for missing curfew without calling me. But I can’t help smiling (at least when he’s not around) when I find out it’s because one of the kids at his school ran out of gas and he took him to get some.
There’s a good chance my kids won’t read this today. (Come on, really, what kid reads her father’s blog?) But I save my posts in a book that they’ll probably come across one day. And when they do, I want them to know that what I want for this Fathers Day and the Fathers Days to come, is knowing that my children are the good guys (and gals) in the world.
When other parents say, “My son is a brain surgeon with a huge house and a new BMW”, I want to be able to respond with, “My daughter took care of her neighbor’s children when she was sick.” And “My son always holds the door open for people and stops to help motorists whose cars have broken down.” I know it probably sounds lame, but if I can have that, every day will be the perfect Fathers Day.