Family•Parenting • 5 minutes to read
I have a serious image-management problem.
I want to present a neat and tidy, successful and happy, well-groomed and well-dressed life. I want people to look at me and create their definition of success. Look at my family, job, and philosophies—#GOALS right?
When I was a child I wanted to be successful because I wanted to help people. Money, power, and success were a means to help people and families like mine who were struggling. Somewhere along the way, though, fear crept in and my intentions became distorted. Fear altered my focus and made my image the center of my success.
Fear is a powerful motivator: it’s like jet fuel that propels us in a specific direction. It can also be crippling because the direction we choose is most often unhealthy.
In nine weeks, my wife and I will welcome our first child. His name is Harrison Jay. He’s cuter than your kids (all of them). And we’re SO. DANG. EXCITED!
But excitement aside, I’ve struggled with immense fear of the kind of father I will be.
I want my kid to have all that he needs and a lot of what he wants. I want him to have access to experiences like music, sports, and art that will help him discover what he’s passionate about. I want him to (rightfully) believe that I’m stronger than Superman. I want him to think I’m funny, brave, happy, God-fearing, bold, and smart. I want him to see me as a competent, successful, confident, risk-taker.
I really want him to grow up to be a kind, gracious, funny, well-rounded, talented, and smart young man. I also just don’t want my kid becoming a menace to society.
I don’t want to hurt him or be angry around him. I don’t want to ignore him. I don’t want him to feel like anything is more important than him. I don’t want him to feel like his voice doesn’t matter, keeping him from speaking up. I don’t want him to think I’m the worst. I don’t want to ruin his life.
Did I mention I have an image-management problem?
I have gotten stuck over and over again in a cycle of thinking of the kind of father I don’t want to be. So much so that when I have a moment where I raise my voice in anger, I’m flooded with the reminders of how terrible of a father I’m sure to be.
I’ve believed perfection was the standard. Which means my kid is doomed already because, try as I might, I am definitely NOT perfect.
I can’t be perfect, and honestly, I don’t want to be a perfect dad.
Quite frankly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It’s been exhausting trying to be a perfect adult, then I was trying to be a perfect husband, and now I gotta try to be a perfect dad? It’s all in my head, but it’s still exhausting.
The best gift I can give to anyone is accepting that I’m not perfect.
I’m not perfect, but I can do my absolute best every single day. And that’s the father I want to be. My mug will say, “World’s most imperfect, but-did-the-best-he-could, Dad.” The verbiage could use some tweaking but I like the sound of it already.
I’m not setting my son up for the real world by projecting perfection. He needs to know that he can love God and completely blow it sometimes. He needs to understand that even the most well-meaning people say and do hurtful things.
He needs to recognize that strength is in our ability to admit weakness and ask for help. It also means admitting our wrongs and saying, “I’m sorry.” And it’s my responsibility to not only teach this to him through my words but through my actions.
Here are 3 ways that I can give my best every day:
1. I’m pursuing health.
The more healthy I am physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the more I can offer my family. Taking time and putting in the effort necessary to work through the pains of my past will allow me to develop tools to manage my triggers. Right now this looks like changing the way that I think about and relate to food, meeting with a counselor, and participating in a Seven Pillars group.
2. I’m staying in community.
When I look back on my life, I can see how God placed men in my life at various stages who taught me life-skills. As I step into this new stage of life, I’m surrounding myself with men who are real, vulnerable, imperfect, and doing the best they can every day to love their children well. I’ve heard it said that you become like the people you spend the most time with. I’m choosing to spend the majority of my time with people I want to be like.
3. I’m saying “sorry” more.
Since image-management is a major struggle for me, I find it difficult to admit fault and apologize. The healthy realization here is that no one is expecting me to be perfect (except me); so by letting down my defenses and admitting where I’ve messed up, I’m allowing my heart and head to transform from the inside out.
I’m sure being a dad won’t be the easiest thing I ever do (or am I wrong here?)—but I’m certain it’ll be one of the most fulfilling. I can’t promise perfection. I can’t even promise I’ll be all that great. I may not win awards or get a cheesy mug. And that’s okay. But what I can absolutely promise is that I’ll always do the very best I can. And something tells me that’s all my son would want from me.
So this month, as you prepare for Father’s Day, look yourself in the mirror (or the front-facing camera on your smartphone) and tell yourself it’s okay to not be perfect. Then, just do your best. Bonus points if you do this every day until you die.
In the meantime, look back a few paragraphs and ask yourself where you could improve. Do you have some areas where your health is lacking and it’s impacting your ability to show up as a dad?
Take your next step toward health.
Are the people you spend the most time with helping you to become the man you hope to be? Find some new friends whose very presence in your life makes you a better version of yourself.
When was the last time you told your wife “I’m sorry?” This is the best place to start when you’re learning to own your faults and do your best.
You aren’t a perfect dad and that’s okay. You can commit to doing your best and getting better every day. And maybe you’ll get a “World’s most imperfect, but-did-the-best-he-could, Dad” mug too.