Saturday, June 18, 2011

Letter To My Sons On Father's Day, 2011

Dear Son:

It is nearly Father’s Day. Our culture seems to make a big deal out of celebrating Father’s Day every year. And, we seem to do it by somehow turning it into a day of giving a gift, and having a barbecue, or go fishing with dad.

Those are nice things, and I am not putting down a barbecue or a few hours fishing.

Yet, our society seems to be missing the point. Every day is father’s day. Every day is a day we need to be mindful of family and parenting, and the influence and effect that good fathering has on every one of us. (Every day is mother’s day, daughter’s day, and son’s day, too.) You know I value good parenting.

We all have had biological fathers. Yet, real fatherhood is more than insemination and a contribution of DNA. Real fatherhood doesn’t really have anything to do with biology.

You and I don’t share any DNA, and I haven’t done anything to contribute to your genetic structure. What we do share is a sense of family, a sense of belonging, and a period of time in which we have spent together, in the roles of father and of son.

In that time, I have attempted to impart to you a number of assets, a number of traits, moral lessons, guidance, and leadership. In short, I have attempted to introduce you into manhood and give you the benefit of not only some of the lessons I’ve learned in my life, but also a whole lot of determination to take charge of your life and for you to have a strong moral compass, a direction in which to travel through life.

As you have learned and as you demonstrate in your life now, it is not what I said that is really important, it is how I actually go through life that is the most powerful lesson I have offered to you. You know how I love to talk. More importantly, you should know how I believe a person should go through life.

I don’t want to just talk the talk. I want to walk the walk. As I get older, I realize lectures aren’t terribly effective. Its how I live and what I do that is real communication. You know that, too.

Not that I want you to walk in my footsteps or to do what I do. No, I want you to find your own direction, and your own passion in life. I want you to fully realize the tools and the skills that you have inside of you, and to use those talents and skills to the utmost, and to reach for your dreams. We each have our own paths, our own passions, and we each need to be captains of our own ships.

Your dreams are probably not my dreams. I’m not going to tell you what you should do in your life. But, I do want you to dream. I want you to live with passion, and I want you to stretch your talents and your abilities, and drive yourself to the highest level of action.

I do not want you to sit on your butt, take life for granted, and not live a passionate, adventure filled life. I don’t want you to be uncommitted, to let life go by, and to not grow and challenge yourself. In my work, I see a whole lot of men just being vegetables on the couch, and have nothing to show for it. (Nothing in the sense of unrealized dreams, and unenjoyed passion.)

You can be anything you want in life, if you aim for it.

You are a healthy, spirited man. I hope you see that and you celebrate that. It is a success. It is an accomplishment. I am proud of you.

So, I celebrate Father’s Day, knowing that you, my son, are living a good, healthy, and passionate life. You dream, and you work towards your dream. You do not sit on your butt, but instead, you engage the world and you are headed in a healthy, passionate direction. You don’t let grass grow under your feet.

I see you rejecting the popular culture’s mockery of men: stupid, insensitive, and lackluster guys who are easily distracted by beer, sex, commercialized sports on TV, and other time wasting activities. Real men, like you, are living their lives differently than how men are portrayed on TV. You value hard work and looking long term, down the road, on what you want to attain, and how you want to live. And, in doing that, you are doing your part to change and reform our culture. You are a good role model of what a man really is.

You have a direction in your life. Oh, its not my direction and its not my career. And, that is good. I haven’t tried to be a father who expected their son to be a clone of themselves. Instead, I’ve wanted you to find your own way, and be well equipped for that journey.

We’ve had our differences, and we’ve argued, and sometimes, it has been a not so fun struggle. And, that is good. In that struggle, and in those differences and those arguments with me, I saw you find your strength, and your own individuality. I saw you learn your own values, and I saw you advocate for your own beliefs, your own passions, and your own direction in life. That struggle with me made you stronger, and, I suggest, a healthier man.

In that struggle, I have tried to model to you healthy manhood and healthy fatherhood, and healthy fathering. Not that I’m perfect. Not by a long shot. Looking back at my relationship with my father, there were hard times, and silent times, and struggle. He died when I was 20, and we struggled with each other. There was a lot of silence and a whole bunch of uncommunicated ideas and passions. There was violence and there was silence, and I saw indifference in him as a father. (Yet, what I thought was indifference was very likely a frustration in Dad not knowing how to communicate his fatherliness with me.)

We all wish we could have a “do over” and have a better childhood and a better relationship with parents. Life doesn’t give us that, and we are pushed along, and to make our own way. Yet, I believe we need to study our childhood and what we learned, and to figure out what tools we now need, so that my tool chest is full and adequate to the tasks at hand. It is a lifelong journey.

We all vow to be different than our parents. Yet, we go into parenting with all of that history and patterns of behavior strongly engrained in our souls. My journey has been to really understand that “baggage” and pattern, and to pick and choose the good from the bad, and to add healthy skills, so that I become a better parent and a healthier man.

Manhood in our culture is hard. We don’t clearly define it and we, as a culture, rarely consciously equip our young men to go forth on their journeys and be strong, healthy men. All men need initiation into manhood, we need to be welcomed into adulthood, and offered the tools we need, and the support we each need to walk into manhood and be strong, healthy, and loving men.

I wish you a continued healthy journey, and I am proud to be Dad.

Love,


Neal

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