Measuring fatherhood by watching my sons

I allowed myself a smile the other day.

It was a smile of satisfaction, of pride and joy — thinking, as I watched my youngest son interact with his oldest daughter, that “yes, indeed, maybe some of what I had tried to share with him all those years had actually rubbed off.”

In my mind, he is a great father. The love between him and his daughters is unquestionable.

The same is true for my other son, as well. The same bond between him and his daughters is equally as strong, equally as impressive.

I am not surprised by their father skills. If there is amazement in any of this, it rests solely with me. Despite many highs and lows, somehow, I had managed not to mess up their parenting skills.

Somehow, the best of what I ever had to offer — compassion, caring and support — seems to have resonated with both of them.

I remember, as a young father, holding that first baby in my arms and thinking, “This is as real as it gets.”

Often, in that first year, I would have welcomed an owner’s manual, but the closest we came in those days was Dr. Spock’s “Baby & Child Care.”

Most of my education came from the School of Hard Knocks, and, as they grew older, I felt every time I turned around it was a new lesson.

In retrospect, I had good teachers. My father was a kind man with a huge heart. He provided me a solid model to follow. Was he perfect? No, he wasn’t. But he taught me lessons on life and relationships that have lasted me thus far.

My grandfather was another huge inspiration for me. He seemed larger than life, at times, and I couldn’t wait until the weekends, when, often, I would enjoy a visit at their home. I learned an appreciation for the outdoors from him, something I cherish to this day.

My father has been gone now for 29 years, and there are times I admit to having felt robbed. I could really have used a father figure in those years of trying to get it right with my sons. Instead, as a father in his early 30s, I was left to fend for myself.

I know I tried hard to do the right things and be a good father. And the reason I know that is because I watch my sons.

Jeremy spends countless hours of every week supporting his girls in their pursuits. He has volunteered as an athletic coach, just as I did with him and Andrew. He supports their passions, and roots them on to success.

Andrew is no different. Last weekend, as a fish latched on to the spoon he cast into the Thunder Bay River, he set the hook, then passed on the rod and reel to his 4-year-old and had her finish the process of landing the fish. Hannah was thrilled with the experience, and it was another great memory-maker that I had the honor of participating in.

As I watch my sons enjoy travel, playing games with their children, reading to them and promoting education and athletics with them, I know the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

I’m happy seeing them in their father roles.

And I silently thank my father and grandfather for their roles in helping me mature.

Genes can easily be shared from one generation to another.

Heart and soul cannot. Those have to be acquired, nurtured and improved upon.

Thankfully, my sons, in their father roles, have ample amounts of both.

For every dad out there, Happy Father’s Day weekend.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.


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