Fathers’ Hopes and Dreams

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I have invited two dads to share their reflections on being a Father. Francis is a father of a six-year-old and an eight-year-old. John is the father of three adult children. Each of them, in their own words, shares the joy, the hope, the love that their children have brought to them.

Being a parent gives you the highest highs and the lowest lows.

I now have two children, a girl age 6 and a boy age 8, but before I was a father I had occasion to speak with my oldest friend, whose name is Joe. Along with my brother and Joe’s sister, I grew up spending many days at Joe’s house and the neighborhood parks. His parents and my parents were in the same Catholic faith sharing group; his dad is my godfather. We joke that we knew each other in the womb.

Two years older than me, I often looked up to Joe for advice. And shortly after the birth of his first child, we had occasion to talk.

“What’s it like to be a father,” I asked.

He answered simply and directly:

“Francis, being a parent gives you the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

That phrase—the highest highs and the lowest lows—has always stuck with me. 

I think it’s a deep truth about parenting. While everyone experiences life’s ups and downs, the peaks and valleys of parenting offer a particular intensity that is difficult to describe until you’ve experienced it.

In the lowest moments, I wonder whether there is anything we can do as parents that will help our children navigate their challenges. In the highest moments, I just sit back with my wife, and we marvel at the two amazing people talking, smiling, thinking, and living in our house. 

These moments of parenting bliss are, thankfully for us, regular occurrences. On almost a daily basis, I am reminded that my children are awesome and I am excited to see how they continue to grow. At the same time, if someone wanted to film a reality show of our lives, they could surely get plenty of footage of the kids angry, crying, frustrated, and utterly uninterested in “listening to adult messages.”

Being a father has convinced me that the highest highs always outweigh the lowest lows, and that you can’t experience those highs without risking the lows.

Father’s Day always offers one of those high moments, as we do our traditional celebration of going to a local running track and exercising together. It’s a simple reminder that amidst so much strife in the world, I am intimately connected to hope personified in the delightful laughter of two young children.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone—may it be a day filled with highest highs!

~ Francis

With apologies to Forrest Gump, parenting is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. My wife, Kathy, and I have three wonderful adult children. None of them turned out the way I had envisioned when they were small.  

It’s only natural for us to have hopes and dreams and aspirations for our children, to envision the path they will take, the life they will forge for themselves. But when you think about it, as innocent as that may be, it’s quite unfair. Because their lives are just that: theirs. I have come to see that what I envisioned wasn’t their lives, but rather the life I wish I could create for them. I have also come to see that the sorts of things I had in mind were really window-dressing: academic excellence, preferably in one of the hard sciences (I am, after all, a chemist by training); a comfortable lifestyle, the ability to weather hard financial times when they came;  lots of kids whom they would raise the way we raised them. And that they would not have to endure any real hardship.

What a crock.

My brother was the best man at our wedding, and he ended his toast to us by saying, “And may all your problems be… little ones.” It sounded very cute at the time. But as anyone who has been a parent knows, their problems are your problems, their cares are your cares. And there is no statute of limitations on worrying about your kids. You’re just going to do it, no matter how old they are.

Looking back, what should I have wanted for them—or rather, what did I really want for them?  I guess I wanted them to be strong and principled. I wanted them to possess the courage to stand up for what is right. I wanted them to love the work that they do. I wanted them to be considerate of others, to be good citizens of the planet, and to make positive contributions to society. But most of all, I wanted them to have the capacity to love without measuring the cost, and to find others who would love them in the same way. Because with all that, they would be able to live happy, healthy lives and help others do the same.

No, none of them turned out like I imagined. And I’m going to have a very happy Father’s Day.

~ John Bookstaver

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