My Fathers Day Parent Fail

Another Father’s Day has come and gone. My relationship with my own dad hasn’t changed. It’s not that I haven’t reached out. In fact, I texted him early in the morning to let him know I was thinking of him and that I love him. But, no response. I’m not surprised. Hurt, whether justified or not, does that to people. It closes them off to all possibilities.

I’m not holding anything against my dad, but years of hurt and separation have built up a seemingly insurmountable wall. Just as difficult as it is to be a dad, it is challenging to know how to be a son. Couple these difficulties with the stubborn, hard-headed, selfish people we are and you’ll see a glimpse of why making our relationship work will take a ton of work. Relationships don’t just happen because of genetics or DNA matches. They take time and energy from two people giving selflessly to one another.

Father’s Day weekend was full of excitement for me. I got to spend the day with my wife and kids on Friday as we celebrated. We went to dinner, opened cards, and went shopping for new golf shirts. I went golfing with a friend on Saturday, followed by a trip to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. It was the first time I’d ever seen hot air balloons in person. I didn’t realize how massive one balloon is. (I’ve never desired to go up in one. It’s just something about a wicker basket being the only thing between me and death that has given me no desire to ride in a balloon.) Sunday, we went to church and I saw my family, but I didn’t really get their attention until after I got home.

For me, Sunday is like being the maestro of an orchestra. There are so many moving parts and I direct them all. The difference between me and a maestro is sometimes I have to sit in one of the orchestra chairs and play while still directing. At home, it was back to the pool, in our backyard, for the whole family. I was attempting to rest but was plagued by thoughts and emotions towards my dad. Why hadn’t he responded to my text?

So where is my parent fail in all of this?

I got Jonas, my five-year-old, into golf over the past few years. I’ve taken him to a miniature golf course a few times and last summer I took him to his first ever public course. He absolutely loved his experience. This spring when other kids were signing up for T-Ball and soccer, Jonas signed up for golf lessons. Before you go thinking that I forced him into this, it was his choice. We gave him options and were fine with him not doing anything if he didn’t want. I mean he’s five and only a kid for so long, why force him to grow up, play a particular sport, and be miserable for the next 15 years.

I’m not going to lie, there are selfish reasons I wanted Jonas to choose golf. I wanted there to be something he and I could love doing together. The reason Father’s Day is such a huge day for me is because with my two and five-year-olds, I am a not factor in their day when mommy’s around…except on Father’s Day.

I went to all of his lessons with him. I’m the crazy parent helping his kid learn golf while the instructors were “teaching”. (I may have felt it could have been done a lot better for the cost.) I also know Jonas’s attention span is infinitesimal and he would need a guiding hand to keep him on task. Every time he plays, he gets better and better. The biggest lesson he has to learn at this age is to stay focused and keep his feet planted.

Surprisingly, Jonas loves golf. He was excited about going to his lessons and would even count down the days until his next lesson. Which is why I shouldn’t have been surprised about his reaction when he found out that daddy was going golfing on Father’s Day weekend without him.

My friend Michael and I were planning on going golfing the Wednesday after Father’s Day, but some things came up so we moved it to the weekend. I got my clubs out Friday night, cleaned them, and sat them by the door so they would be ready to go when Michael arrived the next morning. Our tee time wasn’t until almost 9 am, so my morning routine was the same as every morning. I had two cups of coffee and passed the time reading. Jonas woke up, came into the living room about 7:45 am, saw my golf clubs, and his eyes got as big as saucers. If he were a cartoon, his eyes would have come out of his head and grown bigger than his face. He was so excited as he asked, “Am I going golfing today?”

There are times every parent lets their kids down. Most of the time they are not higher than a hot-air balloon can travel, but Jonas escalated to these heights quickly. And like any mischievous cartoon character would, I pricked his bubble with a large needle. “No buddy, daddy is going golfing with a friend. But, Jonas and daddy will go soon.” And with those words, he was crushed and began to wail. It wasn’t just a small cry. It was as if, in a split second, I had taken out his heart and crushed it on the ground. Father’s Day weekend and I had crushed his spirit. Way to go dad.

I should have planned to take him at some point before this, because up to this point we hadn’t gone just the two of us. As he sat on the couch, next to his mom sobbing and saying, “I just want to go golf.” I searched for words of comfort and relief. The only thing I could think of was to promise we’d go golfing on the following Monday. The crying subsided until Michael arrived and we loaded up the clubs. As I kissed Alissa good-bye, it was amid the wailing of a five-year-old that just wanted to go golfing with his daddy. On Father’s Day weekend, no less.

I left feeling awful and a little guilty for not including Jonas. But, the weekend wasn’t a loss. After golf, I came home and my nephew came and stayed the night with Jonas. We went to the hot air balloon festival, they rode rides and played games.

What I’ve come to realize is that if we truly want to show the people we love how much we love them, we need to meet them on their terms. Truly loving someone isn’t coercing them into doing what we want, and when we want them to do it with us. Loving someone is selfless. It’s doing what they want even if it isn’t that fun for us. And here’s the catch: choose to have fun in the moment. It’s not about what you are doing, but about the moments shared with the individual.

I want my dad to meet me on my terms, but love doesn’t require that. Love goes to them and even gets dirty in the process. Jesus was incredible at meeting people where they were and getting dirty in the process. He met a blind man, spit on the ground, made some mud and rubbed it on the guy’s eyes. Jesus tells the guy to go wash and he will receive sight. But, Jesus’s hands got dirty in the process.

Love is hopping in the pool with your son for the fifth day in a row, not because you are excited to do so, and in spite of the millions of tasks you could be doing, but because it’s an activity he loves. Love is planning an event with the people you love, doing whatever it is they love. It’s taking your five-year-old to the golf course and spending that time loving on them and teaching them how to play. Most of all, love is enjoying the moments just because you are with someone doing something they love.

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