Paradoxical Father’s Day Gift

Al Heystek

“I am your father, and you are my teacher.”  These are words that I reflect upon once again around Father’s Day, words that remind me of a gift I have continued to learn about and receive regarding the role of being a dad.

Of course, Father’s Day is time to honor the gifts of providing, protecting, guiding and nurturing we have received from our dads.  It’s also a time to remember that those gifts, those acts of support and encouragement can also come from our grandfathers, uncles, teachers, coaches, employers, and other men who in some ways have served us in a fathering capacity.

 fathers day graphic

 

Obviously, there are no perfect fathers.  In my work with men professionally and in my personal experience of being a dad this reality of imperfection comes through very clearly.  Try as we might, we make mistakes.  We fail to show up or to listen or we say or do things that hurt our sons or daughters.  And then we can feel guilty or ashamed of our fathering imperfections.

And, sometimes, we learn that being a good father means embracing our imperfections and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to learn. In May 2008 I had completed the 5k of the 5th 3rd Riverbank Run and felt great.  A week later I was out for a run and began having chest pains that eventually led to medical testing and a scheduled surgery for a coronary blockage.  At that time our oldest son was in college here locally and our youngest was going to be a senior in high school.

I was in some shock this was happening and I had fear that this just discovered coronary blockage may “block” me from being there for our sons.  While I was preoccupied about all the details of the surgery and what lifestyle changes I needed to consider both of our son approached me independently.

Our oldest son came to me and simply said, “Dad, you need to chill. Don’t worry, we’ll be okay, relax and go through this.”

 

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Our youngest son used another means.  I was driving him to his summer job and he had placed a small piece of writing on the steering wheel which said, “life is a journey, not a destination.”  Words I had heard before but now penetrated in a new way.

I responded, “I am your father,” (I’m in the role of teacher and guide, remember?) but then a piece of wisdom smacked me and was able to also say…… “and you are my teacher.”

Naturally I had been aware of how I had learned from our sons over the years, yet this occasion brought it home to me in a profound way.  “I am your father, and you are my teacher” are words that remind me of two things around Father’s day.

One is that our sons and daughters have insights and feedback that we dads can benefit from if only we are open and vulnerable enough to take them in.  These are not the typical “gifts” we expect from our sons or daughters, but they can be among the most significant ones. And the second is our acknowledgement as dads of the teaching role our daughters and sons can play in our lives is a powerful affirmation for their worth and capabilities.

Yes, accepting advice from our sons and daughters can be good for them and for us.

“I am your father, and you are my teacher.”

 

Al Heystek, MA, LPC, MDiv

Al is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked professionally with men’s issues since 1994. He has been a therapist with the Men’s Resource Center at Fountain Hill since 2002. Prior to that Al worked for OAR, Inc. in Holland, Michigan as a therapist in both outpatient and residential men’s chemical dependency programs. Al also worked for Gateway Foundation, an Outpatient Treatment center in Chicago and prior to that was on a ministerial team for 10 years in an urban ministry in Chicago.  Al is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. learn more…