May 23, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Tuesday, 14 June 2011 23:00
The thing I wanted most in life wasn’t winning the Employee of the Month Award — although I coveted the executive parking space they gave you along with the gift certificate to the Olive Garden — and it wasn’t retiring at 55 because I’m committed to working until 75 to help pay Medicare for the younger generation.
The thing I wanted most was to be a good father.
To my thinking — and I’m sure my family would disagree — I spent a ton of time and a ton of money on my kids, more than my parents spent on me.
Yes, I was a true hero dad. I was compassionate yet firm, and I rarely resorted to corporal punishment. The practice of “time out” hadn’t been invented when my kids were growing up, which meant my only option was to threaten violence and yell, “I’m gonna break your %@#$& head!” But I never did. This was a practice my mother perfected even though my father let his belt do the talking.
So recently, in a pensive moment of self-reflection, I asked one of my daughters the big question: “How was I as a father?” And she promptly replied, “You were OK.”
Needless to say, that wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I wish she put a more positive spin on her response, along the lines of, “You were the best dad in the world,” or “You were best dad on the block.” (It was a short block.)
I’d even accept “You were incomparable — can I borrow $50?” which would have satisfied my need for self-affirmation and made up for never winning Employee of the Month.
But just “OK”? That’s like getting D+ on an algebra exam after spending the night studying at the bar. A Jennifer Aniston chick flick can be “OK,” the raise you get after a four-year pay freeze can be “OK,” but your performance review after years of struggling to be a great dad shouldn’t be just “OK.”
Some days, I think the puppy appreciates me more than my daughters because she knows enough not to bite the hand that feeds her.
Fatherhood is a thankless job with high expectations. You have to provide for your family, discipline the disobedient, be a power of example, dispense advice to people who prefer to ignore your advice, and remember to take out the garbage.
Most guys I know tried to compensate for the inadequacies of their fathers and often wondered why their fathers, who displayed less love and less effort, got better results.
We often blame our fathers for what went wrong in our lives, including alcoholism, low self-esteem, career failures, bad relationships and marital breakups, but once you experience the perils and challenges of fatherhood firsthand, you gain more sympathy for the guy who raised you. It took me years to realize my father did the best he could with the tools he was given, and he probably did better than most.
So how about a little positive reinforcement for us unappreciated dads, not to mention a gift certificate to Olive Garden?
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