Recently, we introduced a new column, written by teenagers, called Teen Voices. The idea behind it is to help parents (and other adults) get a glimpse of the world through a teen’s eyes. In raising my own four children, I found striving to better understand their world through their eyes was one of the most powerful tools I could use. This simple approach does help build a foundation of trust; however, building trust with a teenager is a day-to-day business. Some days, you are best friends. The next day, one of us is from another planet. As in most things, it is a process. Listening (when my 15-year-old talks to me) is more important than speaking. No Einstein moment here. The goal is to learn something, not tell something, and keeping that in focus is paramount to building trust. But let’s step back to the beginning, long before the teen years.
Today, I asked a friend to tell me about being a father. (He has a three-year-old—his first—and a 16-year-old step-son.) “I love being a father. It feels totally natural. Nothing has been more rewarding,” he replied. “The father-son relationship is incredibly special. The responsibility of being a guide to his future makes me a better person every day of my life. Seeing the world through his eyes brings me back to the purity of being a child where everything is new, exciting.” As he was speaking, it dawned on me that “happy” should fit in there someplace, because who really laughs, smiles and shows happiness more than children? My friend also pointed out a reminder to us all: Children can put your day in true perspective. Their simplicity reminds us that we are the ones who complicate the equation. However, parenting is complicated. It is not easy. It brings feelings of joy, sorrow, guilt, anxiety and every other emotion you can possibly think of—sometimes all within five minutes.
Fatherhood has certainly changed in my lifetime, and I am so thankful for how fathers today have embraced the profession of fatherhood. Some of us had to get ego, selfishness, predetermined behavior, learned behavior and, in some cases, bad models out of the way before we could even comprehend what fatherhood was about. I am so proud as I watch my friends embrace their role as a father—the sacrifices they make, the dedication they display, the love they show. We have come a long way as men and as fathers. For the younger male reading this, it might be hard to imagine, but take my word—We have come a long way, baby.
So, to all the fathers out there—keep growing. Make the model for your children something to be proud of so they can be better fathers for their children. That’s how it works.
Happy Father’s Day!
Joe Dunne, Publisher