Reflections on being a father

As I reflect on my seven decades of living, it is only now that I realize just how much I have enjoyed the role of helping to raise a son and a daughter. I recognize that I made many mistakes as a father. I also believe my wife and I got a few things right.

Being a father is a huge responsibility. For me, I didn’t fully appreciate parenting’s magnitude. I flew by the seat of my pants, using others as models. For good or ill, my father was my chief influencer.

Dr. Benjamin Spock aside, us baby boomers basically were on our own when it came to being parents. After all, neither the Internet nor Google had been born.

We were offspring of the silent generation. Even with other parents as role models, not counting Ward and June Cleaver, I heavily relied on common sense and practicality in being a father.

I understand that we didn’t parent alone or in isolation. My wife and I had much help from friends, family, teachers, and the very organizations in which we served.

My wife and I tried to be on the same page when it came to parental decisions, though we weren’t always consistent. Still, together, we managed to raise two healthy youngsters from diapers to diplomas into adulthood, and then let them fly on their own.

As parents, we tried not to alter our lifestyles significantly once our children arrived. We took them to concerts, calling hours, museums, baseball games, and family picnics. We visited cities, state and national parks, hiked and fished, and generally enjoyed showing them the breadth and depths of life, as we knew it.

Being the father of adult children is a whole different ballgame than when they were youngsters. It is difficult to watch them make decisions similar to what their mother and I had done and not say anything unless asked.

However, being a grandfather has given me a clearer perspective on fatherhood. We live in a global world today, just as we always have. Only I didn’t connect those dots then. I do now, and I am so glad to see that both our son and daughter comprehend how interconnected the world in which we live is.

As mother and father, we imperfectly tried to teach and model the precepts of service, humility, fairness, justice, and mercy. Now, as a senior citizen, I am so grateful for the opportunities to observe our “children” in their daily, imperfect walk to make this rough and tumble world a better place.

I have cherished my role as a father. Now I find great joy in listening, observing, and reflecting as I watch our grandchildren grow all too quickly. It’s like being a parent all over again, only without the direct primary responsibility or the tax deductions.

If I had it to do over again, I would work diligently to explore far beyond my own life space, beyond my own comfort zone. I realize, too, the duplicity of my community involvement. Frequently other activities took precedence over that of my family. I also know that participation set examples of service to others for them.

It is gratifying to watch your adult children successfully employ the precepts you labored to teach them. It is equally uplifting to be there when they need assistance in doing so.

I am grateful that our daughter and son have developed into successful, productive, and caring adults. What more could a father want?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Being a father brings lots of lessons

biking, Holmes Co. OH trail
A family bike ride.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago a small army of children caused a raucous in a restaurant. My only son leaned in, and half in jest asked, “Why do couples bother to have kids?”

I saw my chance and took it. “I’ve wondered that a few times myself,” I retorted. A wry smile was the only evidence that my adult son got my point.

My wife and I felt fortunate to raise two beautiful children, a girl, and a boy. Like any other kids, they caused us grief and moments of angst of course. But in the bigger and better picture, they were both great kids. I’ll relinquish bragging rights to simply say I have immensely enjoyed being their father.

As young adults in our late 20s, Neva and I were raw at parenting. We didn’t have the infinite resources parents do today. We did have a strong support team. Besides our parents, siblings and friends who were also raising children helped steer us in the right direction.

be nice to people
Like the sign says.
Our own parents served as our most positive role models. They taught us to be polite, respectful, truthful, and fair. We tried to do the same with Carrie and Nathan. Not that what we did or said was perfect or absolutist in approach. We just believed in letting our children explore the world, allowing them to make mistakes as long as their actions didn’t endanger themselves or others.

We loved and love our daughter and son. We wanted the best for them. But we were realistic, too. Living on teacher salaries, we weren’t rich. But we weren’t poor either. Our wealth came not in dollars and cents or stocks and bonds but in enjoying as many life experiences together as we could. Often that meant relating to other human beings and to nature. We traveled, worked, worshiped, and played together.

We tried to teach our son and daughter the essential elements required for a successful life. We emphasized the formula of our parents. Develop a strong work ethic, be actively engaged in the community, participate in a faith family, and embrace the family circle no matter how crazy. To that end, we stressed being kind, generous, considerate, curious, questioning, creative, helpful, compassionate, mindful, and honest.

That being said, I’m pretty sure my own children have taught me more than I actually taught them, however. As adults, both son and daughter now offer unsolicited advice for personal improvement. I weigh their opinions seriously. Do I have any other choice?

infant, grandfather, grandchild
Holding a grandchild for the first time was just as rewarding as cuddling your own child.
Fatherhood has taught me to be patient with others and myself. It has taught me to laugh at the silliest mistakes and move on. It has taught me to always part with an “I love you.”

Fatherhood has taught me to celebrate both the joys and disappointments that life brings. The good Lord knows there are plenty of both. The pleasures of parenthood go far beyond the first time holding your newborn baby. The sorrows speak for themselves.

I know I wasn’t the perfect father. Neither was my dad or any father for that matter. But mistakes and all, I just tried to do my very best to guide my children from birth into adulthood.

That is the purpose of being a parent. Raise your children to be interdependent adults who productively contribute to society. Isn’t that all a father should really expect as a measure of parental success?

muskie fishing
I never caught a fish this big. My son was one happy camper.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017