25 years ago I became a Dad. Prior to having a child I was somewhat ambivalent about fatherhood. My own family of origin had left some wounds that I didn’t want to pass on to the next generation.
I knew however that I had married a woman who would be a great mom. I figured she’d compensate for the baggage I’d bring. In time Tricia became pregnant and we spent those nine months getting ready, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When our daughter was born I was all in. Holding her for the first time I was not prepared for the emotional bond that I felt. This infant with scrunched face and mottled skin was ours. I offered a silent prayer asking for divine help in being the best dad I could be.
In time we had two daughters. I was a guy who grew up with a brother. What did I know about raising daughters?
My wife Tricia told me that there were several key things that daughters need from their Dad: To tell them that they are beautiful, strong, smart and can achieve anything they set their hearts to. I would add to the list: to show up, to be available, to be their advocate and to love their mother.
So that’s what I’ve tried to do.
Have I made mistakes? Many. Just ask my family.
But I also made many intentional choices to be a healthy Dad. I’ve tried to pass along positive lessons from my family of origin and intentionally with the help of a therapist sought to leave some baggage behind.
One of the best things I did was to join a Dad Support Group, once when our girls were little and again when they were teenagers. Each time I relied upon the wisdom of other fathers who were each trying to be the best, most loving dad they could be. Together we pooled our wisdom, learned from our mistakes, laughed with and prayed for one another. I know I’m a better father because of these men.
My take away from being a dad is to say that each of us as Dads and Moms do the best we can. None of us is perfect and we need to be gracious with ourselves, our spouse and our kids.
Above all we need to keep showing up and to the best of our ability be the most loving parent we can be.
Now our daughters are 25 and 22.
I look at the choices they’ve made and the courage they’ve shown and find that they regularly inspire me. All these years later, since I first held them and looked into their scrunched faces, I’m still amazed by the depth of the emotional bond I feel.