Have a Perfectly Imperfect Father’s Day!
In keeping alive Responsibility.org’s tradition of sending out a Father’s Day message, I thought I’d share an anecdote from my own experiences as a dad. This happened not long after we moved to Philadelphia where I attended graduate school. Our daughters were in kindergarten and second grade, and we thought it would be nice to take our dinner to Clark Park, a public green space close to where we lived in West Philly. After we were done eating, my older girl asked if she could climb a tree not far from where we had spread our picnic blanket.
Now, this being a public park in West Philly, the space was shared by a mix of the people who called the neighborhood home, including a sizeable contingent of homeless people, one of whom was sleeping amidst collection of empty beer bottles right at the foot of my daughter’s chosen tree. “I’ll be careful not to bug the man who’s sleeping there,” my daughter promised.
Well, while that particular tree was not allowed to be climbed, a fairly robust conversation followed! We talked about situational awareness, and how clues can be detected to make inferences about what’s happening around oneself. Having previously lived in New York City’s East Village, the kids were no strangers to public intoxication, so we then discussed choices. “That man has made bad decisions about alcohol,” I said to the girls after pointing out the beer bottles. “When you get older I hope you make good choices about drinking alcohol,” I said. “You might even make the decision to not drink at all, like me,” my wife, a lifelong non-drinker said. Referring to a foundation started by my great uncle she added, “You might even put your name on a list where if you promise not to drink alcohol until you’re an adult, and you can even get money for college.”
“Well,” said my kindergartner, who had been taking this all in, “You can cross my name of that list. I’m going to go crazy when I’m a teenager!” Suffice it to say, my wife and I took this as a “heads up” that many, many more discussions would need to be had, all of which were as messy, unpredictable, imperfect, but ultimately as important as that one in Clark Park.
This Father’s Day don’t be paralyzed by the perfect. Embrace the weirdness, the wildness and the fun of parenting and remember that the only bad way to have a conversation with your kids about alcohol is not to have one.
Studies repeatedly show you, parents, are the most important influence on their behavior, as hard as it is to believe this (and now that my kids are in their late teens, it’s really hard to believe this). Keep up the great job you are doing. We are happy to be here to help you along the way.
A big “thanks” to all the dads out there, and Happy Father’s Day!