Monday, June 16, 2008

My third Father's Day

I guess Father's Day should be old hat to me by now, but it's still novel to celebrate it both as a father and a son. I definitely feel like the father of a little boy these days (see the video below for a glimpse into the way I spend my afternoons). I think everyone reading this is aware of the conditions of my dad and Allison's, so you'll understand my perspective in some of these thoughts. For me, the apprehension that necessarily comes with facing the prospect of losing my dad has also brought a more acute awareness of the importance of the father-son relationship. But it isn't a quantifiable entity. If I tried to label the relationship I have with my dad, I would call it an organic, breathing one that has grown up along with us. And while I might once have thought that my dad knew everything about being a parent, becoming one myself has made me keenly aware of the guesswork and anxiety that comes with the weighty (and joyful, and daunting) responsibility of having a son. I think my dad may have done a better job convincing me he knew what he was doing than I may with Tobin. Or maybe Tobin thinks that I know the answers to every question he could ever want to ask. I'd kind of like that to be the case, at least for a little while.

While my dad and I don't always share interest in the same things, one thing that I've always been able to count on--and at times take for granted--is that I'm loved and supported unconditionally. Even though our interests might have at times seemed at odds (my taste in music has in many places deviated significantly from my dad's), I can't think of a time when I didn't feel like my mom and dad were my biggest fans. I see a parallel in my philosophy of teaching. Students of mine like to ask when I knew I wanted to be a teacher or who my best teachers were. That usually gets followed up with the question "What makes a good teacher?" Attention to content, while important, isn't the most important component of teaching. The teachers that meant the most to me and were the most instructive forces on my life were the ones that made me feel important and encouraged me to push and pursue and discover for myself in addition to covering the curriculum of the course. I don't remember the list of books I read in my freshman English class in high school, but I remember that my opinion was valued and that my writing was encouraged. That encouragement, beyond the nuts and bolts of growing up, is what I see as the critical component of parenthood. My parents' encouragement is what allowed me to be a cellist who played varsity baseball and a youth-choir-member with a collection of hip-hop and rap CDs in my bedroom. I wasn't pigeonholed into a preordained "You should be like your dad" mold. It's taken me some time to realize it, but I've been my own person for as long as I can remember.

That's what I hope I can provide for Tobin. Even if he (shudder) takes a liking to Broadway musicals and Brontë novels, or grows to dislike baseball, I hope I can support and encourage him to find his own way, defining himself by his interests and myriad talents. He is a joy for more reasons than I can count. But one of the unexpected joys he has given me in an emotionally difficult time is a truer insight into my relationship with my dad.

Not only that, but he has remarkable skill hitting a ball with a bat (couldn't end on such a heavy idea; that's not my way or my dad's):


Elena said...

Beautifully written post, Matt. =)

And very cute video. Even cuter child. He has such a zest for life in his own "Munya" way!

Thanks for sharing your philosophies about life, teaching, and parenting. Your words inspire the teacher and encourager in me. And it's great to know that though our lives don't look the same (and we often don't share the same political views), you and I do have in common that teacher's heart.

Hugs for you, Allison, and Tobin! =D

DMW said...

Lovely post. I hope Father's Day never becomes old hat. :)