Cardmakers paint Father’s Day within a narrow list of traditional themes. While one rolls out a male figure holding a bouncing baby, another shows a man tossing a ball toward a bat-wielding child.
Even an ugly tie or outdoor grill can add to the all-too-predictable placeholder.
What the card companies fail to reflect is the father’s point of view of what comes next, the stage when the children grow up and fly the nest, leaving dad — along with the bat and ball — sitting at home.
As a father of two kids, the road proves familiar. Diapers, T-ball games, gymnastics, late-night homework and giving driving lessons in an old sedan.
But today, with both kids now securely racing in the lane of adulthood, I find myself wondering what my role is in this new world.
I guess most of us, mothers and fathers included, find this stage strangely unsettling. With roles as clearly defined as distant ships on a foggy morning, we struggle to grasp a toehold where our help is needed. We try to dance a light jig — not too much, not too little — on offering advice, suggestions and support.
And much like when welcoming a new baby into the world and finding there’s not an owner’s manual, the same applies to us navigating our new world. Only now, we are the ones thirsting for attention and support.
In some ways, we are the ones learning to take baby steps in this brand-new world. And, like those around me, I realize stumbling is part of the process.
Beyond my wife, few people in the world carry the towering level of respect I hold for both our kids. I love them unconditionally and with all of my being. I also know they are the reason for God putting my feet on the ground. He trusted me with the keys to another’s life and expected me to do him right.
This year our son turned 30, and my role became increasingly cloudy. He’s intelligent, honest and hardworking. I know he’s also smarter and a better person than I am.
As for our daughter, in her mid-20s, she carries energy for life infectious to all around her. And her strength in the face of life-threatening health challenges has been awe-inspiring. I am humbled by her ability to rise repeatedly after being knocked down. They are both the best versions — and more — of my wife and me.
I’m not sure where the story goes from here. The world is full of campy television commercials and shows featuring older fathers portrayed with a cartoon character’s depth. And while I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, these are not helpful.
Being a father is the greatest gift I’ve ever received — bumps, bruises and mistakes included. The road ahead remains fuzzy, but I know if tomorrows are as rewarding as the first stage is, I can’t wait for the clouds to clear and the future to reveal itself.