Father’s Day is supposed to be the moment when being a dad is everything you ever hoped it would be: your two beautiful, perfectly mannered children — a boy and a girl no doubt — bringing you breakfast in bed, your newspaper, and slippers, with the family dog sitting obediently at your side.
But for most of us, paternity hasn’t turned out exactly as we pictured it.
A man down my street loves to fish and hunt. He never says it but I’m sure he thought he’d be taking his son with him some day. Now with three nearly grown daughters harboring no interest in bait and tackle, he gets together with some guys every couple of years for a deep-sea excursion, no kids in tow.
Another man I know is a widower with two small children. A single working dad, he spends weekends keeping up with his girls, falling asleep moments after their eyes close. This is not the vision he had of fatherhood.
I know a man who buried his first born. She came into this world with a pervasive development disorder. This guy never expected to go through that as a parent.
My father, a Navy vet and recreational sailor into adulthood, expected to take me on the waters of Lake Michigan. By the time I arrived, rheumatoid arthritis had damaged his body enough that he never sailed again.
Still, for each of these men, something even more unexpected happened. The widower cherishes his daughters and the time they share, a giant smile across his face when he tells of taking them to the beach, the park or just being home together.
The fisherman takes his girls to movies and they come strolling home down the street, their laughter coming through my window.
The man who’s child died still speaks of her to his younger kids who he gladly shuttles around the city to parties and events, encouraging them to live their lives to the fullest.
My dad showed up every summer at camp to watch me sail on parents’ weekend. At home, we made dinner together on Friday nights and played board games during the weekends.
These guys all ended up being the dads they thought they would be, just not in the way they expected it to happen.
The frustrations and disappointments I face as a father seem small compared to what so many other dads confront, but I can’t say it has all turned out the way I expected.
The experience has not been what I envisioned, but like these other men, I ended up the patriarch I thought I would be.
I send my daughters off to sleep every night and make them breakfast nearly every day. We sit at the dinner table as often as possible. I don’t miss many softball or volleyball games. I cherish the unexpected moments, like picking out ingredients for dinner at the store or watching a movie together. Life has taken some twists but that hasn’t kept me from being a loving dad.
So if you have to help your kids make you breakfast, the eggs end up on the dog, your coffee on the floor, and your newspaper is missing, you can still manage to find joy in that moment, glad to be a dad.
Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.