papa     Another Father’s Day is upon us. And on social media we all put up pictures of our dads and write our praise and honour them in some way.Some write posthumous messages about how they miss their father lamentably no longer with us. There are messages of love to step fathers, those who have stepped up and been the father figure for someone who’s circumstances made this necessary. These are all good things. It’s our way of celebrating those who are often unsung heroes in our lives. There are also those who do not have a father figure at all, and as a father myself, I wish I could talk to these people and at least somewhat make things better for them.

That, to me, is the epitome of being a father. A job that is never that easy, your heart must be split in a thousand different compartments. I am not even going to touch the aspects of what it’s like to be a mother, because I am not one for starters, and our roles are different despite the slow advances that have come about in equality. We are biologically different, and society has made our roles so contrasting that we are what we are. That doesn’t mean we cannot blend and morph these roles ourselves, but all we can control is our own personal approaches to fatherhood.

When I was 5 I remember dreaming of becoming a dad. Probably because I so valued and cherished my own father…..he that would arrive home after working hard, yet still finding the time to play with us, to talk to us about our day, to ‘plug in’ so to speak about our lives and validate us. It came so naturally to him. And seeing that, even at the age of 5, he became the role model which I aspired to.

I became a father in July of 1993. Our little bundle of joy, Alex, came kicking and screaming int this world, and my heart rejoiced at the opportunity to prove myself, to be the man I had hoped to be for so many years. It didn’t take long to discover how daunting a task this would be. Being a father isn’t just coming home and being the plaything. There were so many other things, so many details I had not really considered, that encompasses being a father. The responsibilities. Trying to raise someone who is decent and kind and polite and responsible…..all the while teaching him/her values and morals, some of which I had while others I sorely lacked. It was a great time of reflection and self-checking, changing your outer self first, more slowly your inner core.

For five years we had our first son. We waited that long for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we were dealing with the pratfalls of early autism. He didn;t speak. He slept off hours. We had to play good cop/bad cop my wife and I, she the therapist during the day, me the buffoon at night, and together we were a strange version of mother/father/parent, each in our own rite. But those five years formed us, They molded us, they allowed us to rebuild our cores and strengthen how we parent. And to be honest there were so many great times during this spell. I went from the ‘father I dreamed to be’ to the ‘father I had to be’. Mistakes and all.

IN 1998 we had our second boy. we were nervous. Having one child with autism does not mean you will have two, But it greatly increases the odds. Were we really ready for this? It really only hit us after months and months of watching for signs, hyper-vigilant to see the traits that would require us to start back with therapy and all the other trappings of early autism. It turns out Mackie was neurotypical. Quirky as all get out, but did not have autism.

I want to pause here and say something about having a child with autism. It was in no way a bad thing. Together, Anne and I were were strong, determined, and loved Alex as much as is humanly possible. He changed us. He improved us if I may say so humbly. And in the intervening years, after meeting countless parents in the same situation (often worse) than ours, it became clear that autism was just different, not less. Alex is turning 24 next month, and is by all means an awesome adult who is everything a father could ask for….and more. He is an excellent worker at my business, is polite, engaging, responsible, courteous, strong, lively. I am so proud.

Our second son Mackie is also very unique, and came with his own set of instructions. in many ways he required more attention, being hyper and knowledge driven and curious and outspoken. He liked to mix it up. He wanted to know everything. So as most people discover, having two kids is actually having two people….they are as different as possible. You can;t manage them the same way. You need to adapt to both.

And that pretty much brings me to where I am getting at. Being a father is not a cookie-cutter position. You are not ‘first-base’ on a baseball team, or a defenseman on a hockey team (using sports metaphors, sorry), where you have a specific role and can become great in that domain You cannot pigeonhole the role you play. You have to do all things as a parent. The roles morph and change, but to be a good father, you need to first be a great parent. It isn’t always easy, as many of you know. My hat is tipped to all the single-parents who fulfilled both roles. I cannot imagine going through this alone.

To be a father….wow. It has been the highest honour and privilege I have ever had the opportunity to undertake. While we all celebrate father’s Day and remember our beloved fathers, I in turn say thank you to my own family, my wife Anne,my two kids Alex and Mackie, for letting me at least help and guide them to manhood, and in turn guiding me as well. You can;t be a father without a mother and kids. It’s really that simple.

Happy Father’s Day everyone! Honour thy father, honour thyself, and celebrate the awesome and wonderful task of being part of the best team in the universe.