What really matters

January 8, 2021 is a significant day in our family.  It is significant because it is the birthday of my older son, Daniel Ryan.  Daniel was born on a day much like today 33 years ago about 50 miles from where I am sitting.  I had just arrived at work that morning when my phone rang and my wife informed me that the time had come.  Gena was an elementary teacher at that time and she was out of school for a snow day, a day that was much like today being somewhat snowy and cold for this region.

I left the office and ventured home to pick her up and Daniel was born that evening just after the Dallas episode concluded.  I could go into so many other side stories about this day, but the real point of this post lies elsewhere.  This day 33 years ago changed my role as a man, as a husband and as a father.  This was my baptism into fatherhood and it is hard to know how to prepare for this significant role.  We were fortunate to have a second son almost 30 months later and he had the good fortune to join a family where I had a little more experience with being a dad.

Here are some of the key things I have learned since this day in 1988:

  1. What matters is where you spend your time-Talk is cheap in life and it is even of less value when it comes to being a parent and a father.  I have been fortunate through the years to make career choices that allowed me to do things with both of my sons.  I had the good fortune (not sure if it was good for the boys) to coach them both in soccer and basketball and to work with them in scouting through their Eagle ranks.  Nothing could replace the time and the stories we forged together during those years.
  2. Never assume anything-My wife adopted a phrase that was often used by one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan.  President Reagan said “Trust, but Verify” and that was one of our mantras, especially hers as we raised our sons.  Again, we were pretty fortunate because our boys stayed on the straight and narrow most of the time.  When they didn’t they knew there would be consequences and when they did something well I hope they remembered that we tried to celebrate their accomplishments.
  3. My role is to prepare adults, not be a friend-Being a parent has been one of the most rewarding things I have done.  It has also provided opportunities to help our sons grow and to make decisions they may have not agreed with at the time.  Being a parent is about preparing your children to become adults and it is not about always being their friend.  Both of our sons had jobs will growing up and both worked either during the summer or even while in college.  Work ethic is important and you learn a lot as a parent when you see how your children engage and learn from others.  Some of the best memories I have are from people who worked with and still work with my sons when they talk about how they engage others in the workplace.
  4. Memories are priceless-Taking time to be with my sons, especially through their Scouting careers, provided memories that can never be replaced.  They also saw that not every father had the opportunity or took the opportunity to spend that time.  We all vote with our time and I always tried to vote for time with Daniel and Matthew as they grew up.  I often think now that I need to spend more time with them, but I’ll leave the ball in their court for now.  They know how to reach me when needed.

Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts, responsibilities and challenges I have ever experienced.  Looking back at the last 33 years I have few if any regrets and I am thankful to now have one grandson with two more grandchildren on the way.  Who knows how much time I will have to spend with them.  My intent is to spend as much as I can and as much as they will tolerate.

My hope is that we will all be blessed by the time we have together.