Reflections on Being a Dad: Bill Merriam

IMG_0442-2                  Mom's party 1-2

Forty years after becoming a father for the first time, six children and thirteen grandchildren later, the question has to be; how has my life been changed through all these years in the role of dad and grandpa?  The simple answer…I can’t possibly fathom how different my life would have been without the children.  Being a dad is fulfilling, meaningful, joyful, gratifying, significant, prideful, humanizing, and humbling.  Paradoxically, it is also frustrating, stressful, vexing, fearful, exasperating, exhausting, costly, and certainly not something to enter into lightly.  The decision to become a dad is forever…once a dad you can’t ever walk away and shed the responsibility…(well, perhaps in very short moments).  Children are not our possessions with built-in obsolescence.  When we make the commitment to becoming a dad, it is like no other commitment we will ever make in our life…we can’t negotiate, rationalize our way out of it, or walk away when the contract is finished and pick a new provider.  At times we don’t particular like their behaviors.  Conversely, they don’t always like our behaviors either.  But, we will always love them…no matter what.  The love and relationship with our children is unique and like no other in our life.

My commitment to being a father is deeply engrained within my soul.  My dad died suddenly when I was nine months old, leaving my mother widowed with three young children to deal with on her own.  I have known what it is to not have a dad in my life and will always have sadness about it, but I also developed distinctions from being raised by my mom and grandmother, which has contributed to my way of being a father.  We strive to be the perfect father, but we are human and we make mistakes.  We stumble, we cry, we have breakdowns at times, we experience consequences for our decisions, but we also get back up every morning, get the kids off to school and face the world again, a powerful metaphor for many circumstances in our life.  A true gift we can give our children is allowing them to be human.  Embracing my own “humanness” allowed me the empathy to embrace the humanness of my children.  We can be mentors, teachers, family leaders, influencers, “life coaches”, and providers of structural tools allowing them to make decisions, (with guidance and counsel), and then being responsible for the consequences of their decisions, both good and not so good sometimes.  They learn as much or more from our behaviors, as from what comes out of our mouths.  They are emotional sponges and emulators.  And what we put out there is reflected back.  They teach us and bring us humility.  Titles and successes in our careers dissolve in an instant when we walk through the door of our homes.  We “have” numerous things in our lives, but being a dad/father/grandfather is a “way of being”…it is cellular.  Perhaps it really should be “children’s day” in honor of our children.