My father was awesome. He passed away from lung cancer when I was just 16, but we had a great relationship all throughout my life. He and my mom had me when they were both 25, 8 years younger than I am now, almost 9 by the time our baby is born, and I find myself thinking about him a lot now that I am possibly going to be a father myself.
He had a difficult life, a difficult family, and I remember him saying many times that he wanted our lives to be better than his, for us to be happier, more successful, etc than he was. He also was an entrepreneur, working in software for many years and eventually starting his own company with his best friend a couple years before he passed away. At the time, I wanted to be a painter or a genetic biologist (yeah, I know, very similar… both got to draw animals is how I saw them being related), and was applying for colleges. And now here I am as an entrepreneur in the software development / Internet industry.
My parents were pretty poor when I was born, but eventually as his jobs got better we moved to the suburbs and eventually to a fairly wealthy planned community in Southern California. I remember him saying to me in my early teens that he feared my life had been too easy, that great people are never born out of easy lives, and he wanted me to have an easy life.
As things would go, his departure sort of started in motion a long series of events that would be anything but easy. While our lives aren’t yet chronicled in the history books, it’s safe to say that life is great, and that the challenges and lower lows have helped me find a place of earned happiness that I might not have otherwise achieved.
And now, I have the chance to think about raising a son or daughter of my own. I want to be the best father just as my father was the best to me.
My mother also shaped a lot of how I see the world, and I want to make her proud to have a son that can pass on some of the things I’ve learned from her.
It’s weird making the transition from random married dude to an actual father. It makes me rethink my posture, my habits, etc. And yet, there are plenty of fatherhood stereotypes that I want to avoid.
I don’t want to be absent. I don’t want to be aloof. I don’t want to be too serious. I don’t want to be the the one that’s only around for big events or for times of punishment.
I do want to be active and engaged in every step of the process. I want to be a teacher, a leader, a role model, etc. I want to carry a full half of the responsibilities of parenthood. I want to encourage growth rather than simply be a protector. I want to give this new person every chance to be great, and to have the will power to let them also be their own person when the time comes, making their own mistakes and taking credit for their own successes.
Existing parents may scoff at my idealism, but we have to start with idealism and not compromise anything but the most necessary ideals when absolutely necessary. That’s how my brain works at least.