Fatherhood is the toughest and most underrated job in American life. Choosing fatherhood is the bravest thing a man can do.
The night his son was born there was a torrential downpour. I watched Dave rush off into the night after he got the call. He was cool, calm, and in control. Myself? I think I walked around in a circle for ten minutes, not knowing what to do with myself. It’s funny because they’ve been saying that this winter was one of the mildest on record in Chicago with hardly any precipitation. For me, it was as if the universe was waiting — patiently, in restraint — for the safe arrival of this beautiful little boy before letting the rains come. In life, there are no coincidences.
The great news of the birth of Dave’s son made me think about fatherhood all this week. How fatherhood demands the entire capacity of man — his patience, his reserve, his strength, his diplomacy, his good taste, his guidance, his good judgment, warmth and compassion. Fatherhood tests all of these things; it brings to bear the measure of a man. The birth of a child happens thousands of times each day. This provides humanity a clean slate each day, thousands of times over, to do the right thing.
All too often in our society, we focus on the negative, the easy, and the cynical. In our busy lives, we sometimes forget to appreciate the great things that are happening right under our own roofs, right under our noses. In our culture you hear talk about role models, a shared expectation that our athletes, our public figures, celebrities, politicians, and artists need to think about how they are role models to our children. Well, they don’t. A mother and a father are the only role models worth considering. Parenting is not glamorous; but it’s far more important and essential than the over-privileged lives of people that live in the public eye. Parents are the last line of defense. It is the brave father who sees to this.
I have another great good friend who had thought he never wanted to be a father. The universe had other plans for him and his wife. Now, he talks about how the experience of having a son has enriched his life, how it makes him a better man, and that he wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. Recently, his five year-old boy took an aptitude test and was accepted into a gifted and talented program. When he received the paperwork he went to the office to deliver them — in person — before the deadline. Papa wanted a receipt; confirmation that his son would get only the best.
Today is not only a tribute and a celebration for Dave but also to the hundreds of thousands of fathers out there who are doing the right thing and doing right by their families. I personally know so many there’s too many to mention. To the Bishop, who does the right thing daily by his family for his beautiful daughter. To Double-D in Rhode Island, with his three boys. To Jets-Giants, who on a daily basis thinks of nothing else than taking care of his family and two sons. To the Terrible Towel, whose bravery and commitment has sustained his son well into adolescence. To the Detroit Tiger in Michigan, whose lifelong goal was always to be a good father. And to the Redneck, who continues to amaze me on a daily basis.
To the fathers of America: After all of you listen to this, take a second to appreciate all of the great things you do. You’ve earned it. Because just like Dave The Masshole, you all had the balls to choose and embrace being a father — and to choose The Bravery of Fatherhood.
(The above is an excerpt from the essay of our special edition podcast, The Bravery Of Fatherhood, April 19, 2012.)