What it takes to be a good dad

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Let me note at the outset that there are a lot of things that I am not good at. They include: romance, art, music, home repair, golf, kayaking, hunting, fishing, horticulture, sympathy, partying, driving a stick shift and faith. Although I practiced law for 34 years, I was mediocre at best.

But I do think I was, and am, good at being a dad. Of course, the problem with such self-evaluation is that there really is no very good objective measurement for fathering. There are no doubt lots of terrible dads who think they are good. But if your wife and kids think you're a good dad, then maybe you are. Mine do. If you measured fatherhood like golf, then I believe I shoot in the mid- to high-70s. Tiger Woods can't break 100 — as a father.

So having established my somewhat shaky credentials, I offer these personal thoughts on being a good father:

It helps to have a good father of your own. I came to realize that my father was a flawed man, but his constancy, availability, sacrifice and love for his family were a powerful influence on me.

It helps to remember and enjoy your own youth. I still like gumballs, wading in water, killing hornets, popsicles and Slurpees, bubbles, grounders, jumpers, Wizard of Oz, Swiper, making fart noises, and reading Fred and Ted Go Camping.

The fathering skill set has to evolve — from changing diapers to teaching sharing to comforting after being cut from the tournament team, to dealing with alcohol and drugs, to realizing your babies are adults to grandparenting. No doubt being a dad is a marathon, not a sprint. It is one of the longest journeys a man will take.

Most importantly, being a father must be a top priority. I love to read, but for 10 years the only books I read were ones like Jacob Two Two and the Little Men series. I used to love to drink and smoke, but I wanted to be my boys' coach. Marsha and I wanted to go to Europe, but the kids wanted The Dells. I almost always left work early to coach or be at the game — hundreds of them. Indoor soccer at Palatine, 7 a.m., Sunday mornings. Christmas holidays at the Pontiac basketball tournament. Children are not a hobby. There are not an entry on a bucket list. Fathers need to go all in.

This view is obviously a personal one. Every man must decide for himself what it means to be a father, and what will be his commitment. Modern philosophy tells us that perhaps all truth is subjective. If so, this is mine.

Happy Father's Day to all.

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