A few weeks ago, my youngest child turned 18-years-old. He finally made that age-of-majority threshold! Lately he’s had a few auditions so I’ve been getting to spend some time with him. He lives in South Orange County and the drive into L.A. can be tedious, at best. But, for the most part, that is, when I don’t have a splitting headache from the bumper-to-bumper traffic, I enjoy the trips because they give me time to spend with him.
Sometimes during the drives, we listen to music or some stand-up comedian. I like the time in the car because we get to talk. I get to learn about my son and spend time discovering how he feels about the world and life (and all too often, the latest video games or YouTube videos!).
I’m proud of my three children and the lives they’re creating for themselves. Yes, like all of us, they have their challenges and sometimes life is not easy. But I have been blessed to be the father of some wonderful people. And though I will always be their father, I do my best to see them as people; adults with their own lives and dreams and aspirations and challenges and adventures.
I have always encouraged them to follow their hearts. At least, I hope I have. Whenever they’ve asked for advice, I’ve tried to talk with them about the various options they have at the time and possible outcomes to various choices. But I hope I have always left the decisions up to them and have done my best to not flavor any advice with my own agenda(s).
As I thought about my youngest’s 18th birthday, I remembered receiving a letter from my father on my 18th birthday. It amounted to a 30-page diatribe about how, if I didn’t “change my ways,” I would “amount to nothing in my life.” In the long run, he may have been right, and I kept that letter until I was 30. Then one day I thought, “Why are you carrying this—these thoughts—with you?” I threw the letter away.
For most of my formative years, my father groomed me to grow up to realize his dream of being a professional golfer. I grew to love (and hate) the game, but I was never cut out to play at a professional level nor did I have any interest in doing so. As I grew, his subtle encouragement became more overt and my resistance led to an ongoing discord between us.
Perhaps that’s one of the main reasons I have endeavored to not give my children any direction in their lives. I’ve tried to be an example, and I have, at times, offered unsolicited advice but, as far as I can recall, I’ve never pushed them into anything they haven’t wanted to do.
I’ve been harshly criticized more than once for not being more influential in the lives of my children, especially my youngest, for not directing him more or offering more options in his life. But I’ve always looked at it as it being their life, not mine. I’ve tried my best to remember that they, as I, are individuals with their own uniqueness and talents to share with the world. They may have come through me into this world, but they are not of me. They are children of our Creator and I’m just here to offer advice when they ask.
Even as adults, my kids appear to tolerate the old man well enough so I’m hoping I’ve done the right thing by them.
I’ve always felt that, though I’ve done the best I know how, I haven’t been that good of a father. But I know of no other way to be than me.
I’ve told my kids to follow their hearts. To always listen to what their hearts had to say. I do my best to listen to my heart in my own life and can’t imagine any better advice for another. How could I be more knowledgeable about what they should do in their lives than their own intuition; their own hearts?
Let me give you some fatherly advice, too. Follow your heart. No matter how old you are. It’s never too late.