There are times when I honestly can’t figure out why my kids like me. Sometimes, when I reflect back on the day, it seems like all I did was tell them what to do and then punish them if it wasn’t done. When I try to look at myself through their eyes, all I see is a 15 foot tall, yelling monster. When I think about that, it’s impossible to like myself, much less see how anyone else could.
I hate punishing the kids, but I don’t shy away from it. I would love to be their best friend. Since I’m in the Navy and tend to spend large chunks of time away from home, I would love to be the “fun parent.” I would love to just let things slide, so everyone would be happy all the time when I am home. The problem is that I’m not their friend. I’m their father, and I have responsibilities. If I were to ignore those responsibilities, it would be horribly unfair to my wife in the short-term and the kids in the future.
We have rules in our house, and they are in place for a reason. If you break those rules, there are consequences. In our house, rule breakers are sentenced to time-outs and loss of privileges. In some cases, I have to raise my voice. My voice was genetically engineered for ships’ engine rooms. It’s deep, it’s loud, and it carries. I will sometimes scare myself when I yell. If I were to hear my voice coming from somebody that towered over me, I would legitimately be terrified. I have to assume that the kids are, and it breaks my heart.
Sometimes, I’m probably too strict with the rules. There are instances where I could let things slide, and no harm would be done. Sometimes, I get too worked up about small infractions. This is especially true when I’m dealing with my son who knows just how to push my buttons and isn’t afraid to do it. Sometimes, I feel like a tyrant that rules through fear. How could the kids look at that and feel any sort of positive emotion.
Despite all of this, the kids don’t just like me, they love me. They don’t just love me, they absolutely adore me. I look into their eyes, and I see a form of worship that I could never deserve. When I get home from work, they are actually ecstatic to see me. I can’t leave the house in the morning without giving each of them at least 25 hugs and kisses. When they get hurt, they come to me to be comforted. It defies logic.
I’ve discussed this with my wife before. When I told her that I don’t understand why they like me, her answer was simply, “You’re their daddy,” but it has to be something more than that. That reason just isn’t enough for me. There has to be something more. I do play with them. I get on the floor and let them crawl all over me. I read them books when I have the energy and watch movies with them when I don’t. When I stack all of these things up against the sight of me raising my voice, however, it just doesn’t level out. The scales have to still be tipped towards horrifying tyrant.
I’ve thought about this conundrum from every possible angle. Surely, there has to be some clue that will unravel this entire mystery. There has to be an undiscovered fundamental law of the universe that would explain the situation. As I continue to ponder it, there’s only one possible explanation. My wife is right. They really do love me simply because I am their daddy.
That’s an incredibly humbling thought. They love me, unconditionally, for no other reason than I am their father. That is an amazing responsibility. How can anyone possibly live up to that? When I look into those eyes, and I see that love, all I can think is, “I don’t deserve it.”
It just reinforces what I already knew. Fatherhood is one of the most sacred duties on the planet. I probably don’t deserve that adoration that they give me, and maybe I never will. I’m certainly going to try though. When faced with unreal expectations, the only course of action is to try to achieve them. When you realize that your children love you without question, you have to try to be the best father you can and try to earn that love. Unfortunately, part of that is enforcing the rules. Part of that is telling them they’ve done something wrong and teaching them to not do it anymore. Part of that is raising your voice and then questioning yourself long after everyone else has gone to bed.
Living up to that level of love is impossible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.