The first time I heard I was going to be a father I was 21 years old. I remember exactly where I was and I remember exactly what I felt. Pure joy.
Often times sensitivity can be mistaken for weakness, but since a young age, I have always been sensitive towards my environment. I have always really felt what’s going on around me. My whole life I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by positive male role models. I think my dad, who didn’t have the best childhood growing up, has always gone above and beyond to make sure that I never did, and never will, feel how he may have once felt. Between him, my grandfather, uncles, friends, coaches and teachers, I’ve taken bits and pieces from all of them and allowed it to shape me. And the same can be said for my future self.
If you asked my mom, she’d tell you I’ve always welcomed the idea of being a “Dad” (granted it was not my intention for it to happen at such a young age). The story of how my mom found out she was becoming “Grandma,” however, went very different. The morning after one of my football games we were at McDonald’s in Bowling Green, once I confirmed what she was already thinking she quietly walked out and just sat in the car.
Everyone knows I’m a mama’s boy, but to truly understand our relationship, you would have to know that for the 3 years I had been in college there was never one day I went without talking to her. To my surprise, that all changed the next day. And it continued the entire week. We didn’t speak until my game the following Saturday. What’s interesting, though, is that as mad as she was with me, I know she was never scared or worried about the type of father I'd become.
This Friday, June 22, Ava Jolie Parks will turn 10. It will also mark the 10th Anniversary of me becoming “Dad”. My view on parenting is very similar to that of working at a job or playing on a sports team. It’s important to get better every year. Ironically, there are a lot of good dads out there that think their job is over once the title becomes official (and yes, this could be said for moms too).
I will never forget, years ago, my pap telling my mom he couldn’t believe all of the stuff I do with Ava. It really made him think about how reluctant he was to be involved in certain aspects of his children’s life. But, compared to his own dad, my dad would’ve probably been blown away just by my pap’s presence.
The thing about parenting, and being a dad, it’s not one size fits all. What I do isn’t for everybody, and what other’s do might not be for me. Today, there will be a lot of men sporting “Top Dad” t-shirts, drinking coffee out of their “World’s Best Dad” mug, but there’s no way how to tell who the best dad is…nor does it matter. What matters is being the “Dad” your son or daughter needs you to be at that very moment, giving your best effort.
I don’t have the opportunity to see my daughter every day. So, it seems our time is forced to be quality over quantity. Some may consider me a part-time dad and that’s fine, but I’m still a full-time father. Fortunately, my dad set a very high standard, but I still want to exceed it. Why? Because I can, I’m capable of it. And while I recognize down the road Ava is going to become an amazing mother, I'm confident that if the Lord blesses me with a son, he will choose to raise the bar that I'm currently setting even higher.