Fatherhood is built on leading by example. Only then can words and advice successfully resonate.
I’m fortunate to have been raised by a strong, smart, independent man who taught me immensely about life. I’ve learned through things he has told me, but mostly I learned through his example.
An example of this is how father deeply cherishes my mother. His actions towards my mother taught me the foundation of how to be a husband. I don’t recall the wisdom he shared with me on marriage, because he didn’t have to. I had a front row seat on how to love your wife. Every birthday and anniversary was celebrated with bouquets of flowers. A phone call every evening before leaving the office to check in and communicate his departure. Next year they will celebrate 50 years of marriage. I long to celebrate that milestone with my wife.
In addition to fatherhood and marriage, I’ve learned a lot from watching my father’s example. Negotiating, patience, unconditional love. Writing, independence, and justice. Work, play, and the need for both.
Love is action. Words can only supplement action. You cannot have love with only words and no action. I deeply love my children. I tell them so all the time. I never want them to question that. But the rub is that it really doesn’t matter too much what I say. I need to act.
I’ve always envisioned conversations with my sons about important subjects such as sex, love, commitment, discipline, mortality, and generosity. What has changed in my understanding is that I now know that these conversations need to be built on years of leading by example or I risk these conversations having no effect.
For an example, I need to use my manners. The other night at dinner after working with my oldest son for over 2 years on getting him to use his manners, he just blurted out, “KETCHUP!” I looked over at him with some disgust in my tone and said, “Use your manners, young man.” After he complied and joyfully dipped his chicken into the delightful condiment, I turned to my wife and said, “Pass the salt.”
So I need to show them. I need to pick up after myself everyday. I need to read. I need to brush and floss my teeth. I need to explore and try new things. I need to try and fail and try again. I need to admit when I was wrong. I need to apologize. I need to show patience and understanding. I need to be generous and caring.
I need to love their mom, wholly and exhaustively.
I need to try to contribute to this world in a positive manner while being happy, healthy, and having some excitement.
Leading my children means embodying what i think they should they should aspire towards. I need to lead by example, then and only then can I really give them advice.