The problem with a blog is that entries usually need to be timely. If that time passes, the blog post becomes much less relevant. Despite that I am going to post this rather belated Father’s Day piece because this is my blog and I can do what I want! If you don’t like it, start your own blog and write scathing reviews of me. Actually, you should do that anyway, partly so you can have a creative outlet, but also because life is a lot more fun with a rival! Anyway, I digress…
I was never afraid to be a dad. I’m not totally sure why this is. Some of it probably due to sheer stupidity/hubris. There is also the fact that I was in the middle of my pediatrics training when I first became a father, so I was used to dealing with children. I also have always liked children and being around children and, let’s be honest, acting like a child (the main driver for my career selection). The final piece in that puzzle is that I had and still have a really great dad who was a great role model for being a dad and of whom I could ask lots of questions when the tough times would inevitably arise.
(This would be a really great time to insert a picture of me wearing the “Empathy Belly” from one of our child-birth classes. Unfortunately, the only known copy has been lost. I left it with Scott Boschee in his residency clinic and it was never found again. Darn you, Scott!)
My dad is not the kind of guy to stand there and give lectures or pontificate about various topics. He is a hands-on kind of guy and would usually teach by example. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad was persistence. This came about by him letting my struggle with his guidance when I came across a problem that I couldn’t figure out.
Growing up, if you had a homework problem, whom you would ask for help depended upon what the subject matter was . (At least I did. Not sure about Matt and Brian.) English and Spelling went to my mom and Math went to my dad, especially as I got older and had to deal with Algebra and Calculus. This was because my dad is an accountant and also because my dad loves puzzles. In my mind, math + puzzle = algebra and calculus. Never do I remember my dad just giving me the answer. He would figure it out and maybe give me some clues, but mostly he would challenge me to think about the problem differently and be able to get the answer, which I inevitably would with his guidance. He wouldn’t let me give up or quit or take the easy way out. Which I greatly appreciate and try to encorporate into my teaching style with residents as well as with my own children.
Way back when listing “25 Things About You” was cool, I mentioned that one of the things I always have appreciated my dad for is his ability to get me to see things differently. I am still not sure exactly how he does it, but he is a master at this. I have lost track of the number of times I would tell him about something that would frustrate me about other people or my job or life or the way of the world. My dad would then always say something to challenge what I was thinking, in a positive and non-confrontational way, that totally changed my point of view. One example I distinctly remember was coming home from college frustrated at my fraternity as a whole for being filled with guys who basically “didn’t get it” and “weren’t out for the common good” (I was probably frustrated by the fact that were put on probation AGAIN. We were only on probation at some point during 7 of my 8 semesters there. No big deal.) I don’t remember anything that my dad said, but I do remember how he said it and how it immediately made me see the issues in a new light and the fraternity as individual brothers, none of whom are perfect (including me.) Yet another thing that I try to incorporate into my daily life. Being able to see something from multiple view point and trying to gently get others to see those sides as well. I just wish I was as good as he is.
Despite the fact that my dad had a full-time job, he always made it a priority to come to as many of my sporting events and other functions as possible. He likes to golf and fish and has some other hobbies as well, so he easily could have skipped out on an occasional Little League game or that one odd Thursday afternoon freshman football game, but he would come to as many as he possibly could. He would even apologize when he couldn’t come to every single high school baseball game, even though many of them were played in various faraway Chicago suburbs in the middle of the afternoon. Clearly, apologies were not necessary as I knew that he had a job and couldn’t just come and go as he pleased. Plus, its not like any of the other parents would usually be there for those mid-week games because they were in the same situation. Yet, he wanted to make sure that I knew he wanted to be there and supported me. Another lesson that I have carried with me to this day. Even though Hannah’s soccer team doesn’t keep score and she probably wouldn’t really mind if I missed a game, I come out to see her. Even when it would be easier to stay at home with Amelia while Susie went to the game, I make a point to be there. No matter how much of a fit Amelia throws.
As I mentioned the other day, there was one time my dad did give me some specific advice. Or at least he tried to. So I will leave you with that advice and the story behind it. On my wedding day, when I was hanging out with the groomsmen in a room off to the side of the altar/sanctuary. It was about time to get things started. All of a sudden, my dad comes in. He looks like he wants to talk. My brothers and I gather around. Then my dad begins to speak. He says, “I feel like right now I should have something important to say. But I’ve got nothing.” After waiting a second, we all share a good laugh, some good lucks and some hugs. Then it was time for the ceremony. I didn’t know if my dad remembered that moment (he didn’t), but I held on to it for a long time and then recreated that moment before both of my brothers’ weddings 2 years ago.
“But I’ve got nothing.” Oh, Dad. That is definitely not true. Maybe you didn’t have any specific wisdom to give at that moment, but your example, your ability to laugh and love and share who you are is way more than nothing. It is most definitely something. And because of you, so am I.