On Being a Dad

By Scott Westerman
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“My father gave the me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me.” ~Jim Valvano

The world needs more father figures. We need more men who listen to us with full attention, pick us up when we stumble, pull us back on the right path when we stray and love us no matter what we do.

Good dads show affection, yet hold us accountable. They stand by your side to celebrate your victories and help you recover from your defeats. They brag about you in public, but love you enough to give you guidance in private.

We need more men who can teach their sons what it’s like to love and respect a soul mate, to show us how to fight fairly, to forgive often and to protect the people he loves in good times and in bad.

Good dads show their appreciation for their soul mates in ways that others can see, and when nobody else is watching. They retain their identity, stand up for what they believe in and yet, are also seen as a partner, a collaborator in the most important of human work: raising a child.

We need more men who understand that parenthood is a lifelong commitment, something you don’t walk away from once you’ve made it. Dad’s come home after work. They show up at little league games, dance recitals and parent teacher conferences. The do all these things whether they have had a good day or a bad day, realizing that life’s magic happens among those small moments when you watch that miraculous person you helped create, taking tentative steps on the way to a confident adulthood.

Dad’s maintain mutually beneficial relationships beyond the family. They realize that we become who we associate with, making their life’s work a monument that their children will honor and emulate. They teach humility and dedication and show us how to balance work, family, friends and self in a way that enriches everyone they meet.

Dad’s are human. The make mistakes and sometimes exercise bad judgement. How they act when they realize these things reveals their true character. We know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong. Good dads do their best to right wrongs. They contribute to solutions, even if they may have had a part in causing the problem.

When I saw my friends Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez presenting their son, Lucas to President Obama, it was a testament that good dads can come in all shapes and sizes.  When I think of how my friend Terry Brock became an adviser for MSU’s Sexual Assault program, it was a reminder that you don’t have to be someone’s biological father to be a father figure. When I see my own dad, The Real Scott Westerman, enter the room at a Rotary meeting, I realize that a father’s influence extends well beyond his family and the respect he earns from a lifetime of service can transcend generations.

For better or worse, all dads ultimately realize that their kids are always watching, and will likely model the behavior when it becomes their turn to take on the mantle of parenthood. This is a good father’s biggest fear and motivates everything he says and does.

As Tom Wolf writes, we eventually make “.. the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.”

These are the things the best dads aspire to. These are traits that build character, save lives and impact the world long after our names have been forgotten. It’s the toughest job you’ll ever have and the most important legacy you’ll ever create.

Happy Fathers’ Day!