I was sitting in church on Father’s Day morning with a couple of my kids, trying to pay attention to the sermon while my children passed notes back and forth on the bulletin. I started to chuckle to myself as I saw one of them write, “You know that Dad likes me more”, which was followed by a response of “You’re adopted.” Sometimes in their gentle banter I find more humor than I should and tried my best to ignore it while I began to think about the larger community of Dads from when I was their age. There were a few around while I was growing up and to be quite honest most of my friends Dads scared the heck out of me but there were a few that you always thought would be fun to grow up around.
After church and an interesting brunch at Country Kitchen, where they were so busy that instead of syrup bottles it came in an ice cream saucer, Max and I drove over to the home of one of my “kids” who had an explosion of baby kitties and needed to find a new home for more than a few of them. I’m not sure what was more comical, watching Max attempt to keep the “Momma” cat in the card board box, or his questioning of their safety once we got them home as we now have a neighborhood groundhog that Max has named Randy.
This afternoon as I sat on the front porch watching them get their real first taste of outdoors and chasing each other around it suddenly dawned on me that maybe all of the babies didn’t exactly belong to the mother cat we brought home. She didn’t seem to care, and took care of them, finding them cool places under the giant green leaves of the hostas to lay around and meowed to them quietly as they played. She would watch them play and explore and every now and then would purr gently when one strayed too far from where she was comfortable but always keeping an eye on them. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a column about moms but follow along with me and I’m sure at some point we will both figure out where I’m going with this train of thought.
It made me think a little bit about all the “kids” I have that aren’t mine. From the countless FFA kids I coach or interact with; Morgan who has headed off to study this summer in China, Brittany who with a little more confidence and practice will find that she can accomplish more than she ever thought possible, Caleb who loves McDonalds as much as I do and has this dry sense of humor that holds your attention or any of the 100 or so other FFA kids I count as my “kids” ; to the kids from youth group at church including Lily who we lovingly call Hannah 2.0, when she fills in on family outings when the oldest is busy. All of these young people have enriched and enhanced my life, all the while allowing me to share with them what I feel is the most important duty of all Dads, to love unconditionally.
It’s true that I’ve never been much of a fan when young men come to call on my daughters and I’ve done my best to make sure they know the physical harm that will come to them if I’m crossed to the point where my daughters warn potential suitors about the “talk” from Dad. But my children’s friends see me also as the “fun” Dad, the one who is a little weird, kind of a big deal and always there with an encouraging word and a keen interest in who they are.
Kind of like that momma cat I suppose, in the fact that I feel that if I can give one child just a moment of encouragement that they may not get elsewhere, maybe that is doing my part and in the end gives my life purpose. I hope that in the end, what these young people remember of me is that I cared for them, encouraged them and played straight with them, and it is my hope that when they mature they will pay that forward. It isn’t always easy being a Dad to your own kids, we make mistakes and we generally are too closely invested in them to keep from being just a bit biased. I think perhaps, that we all need to make the attempt to be a Dad to a child, whether they are our own or just one that we pass along the way, and just like that momma cat, we should watch out for them giving them just enough distance to learn and grow. See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.