This post is about my experience growing up with two fathers.
At different points in my life, each of them has served as my role model…the person I most looked up to.
When you recognize one of my many faults, please contact the guy pictured above left as he’s ultimately responsible.
As a kid I thought I had it worse than every other kid I knew. My biological parents divorced when I was very young and both remarried. I was raised by my mother and my step-father (whom I call my Dad).
Looking back, I realize I had a pretty good upbringing. Aside from the time I broke the TV antennae and my Dad couldn’t watch wrestling. (Wrestling isn’t even real…but in hindsight that wasn’t the best day for my opinion.) And that time my sister broke the chandelier in the living room because she didn’t catch the soccer ball I lovingly kicked to her. Oh the memories.
Now that I’m technically an adult, I’m able to fully recognize just how much of an amazing role model I’ve had in my Dad. As I write this, I’m doing the best I can to be a better father. I’m all too aware that my kids probably think they have it harder than their friends and that I’m unreasonable. Here’s to hoping that one day they look back having learned as I did and appreciate my efforts to be a better Dad.
There must be some mental rite of passage for teenagers in thinking they know better than their parents. I certainly went through this and my role has now come full circle having transformed from the know-it-all kid into the Whatever Dad.
Any efforts I make to impart some of life’s wisdom and prevent male-pattern stupidity are deflected by their words “Whatever Dad“.
It’s almost an out of body experience when it happens…I’m trying to keep my kids from repeating some of the mistakes I made in my youth…only to be met with disdain and eye rolls. Having once been the know it all teenager, this is like you’re watching yourself get bitch slapped with your own words plus a couple decades of interest. Fun stuff.
Growing up I lived with my step-father but I idolized my biological father. I only saw my biological father once a year and more than anything I wanted to be a bigger part of his life. I played 4 different sports growing up and at the time sports were everything to me. I was good at all of them…ultimately not great at any. But it meant the world to me and I wanted it to matter to everyone around me, especially my biological father.
But the father I idolized growing up never saw me play a single game. The father that raised me was there for all of them. As a kid (and later as an adult), all I could focus on is what I didn’t have and I wasn’t able to appreciate everything I did have.
After a series of crushing disappointments, the “shine” wore off and I no longer idolized my biological father. This forever changed the course of that relationship. There’s so much more to being a father and this was one of the more painful lessons I’ve learned in my life.
I harbored an incredible amount of resentment towards my biological father blaming him for many of my personal shortcomings. Nothing was ever my fault and responsibility bounced off me like bullets off Superman.
I wasted several years of my life and always wanted to be more important than I really was. I wanted to matter…to be important…to be respected. But I lacked direction and handled criticism so poorly I could make Trump seem humble. That ain’t easy.
Somewhere along my journey, I realized that the mentor I needed had been there all along. As a kid, I’d always thought my step-father was too tough on me. Turns out he was teaching me to expect more from myself.
I’ve learned that each of us are responsible for our education, improvement and development. It’s not the responsibility of your teachers, the school system, your boss or anyone else. My Dad taught me that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” At the time, it was just a dumb ass rhyme. (See what I did there?) There were hundreds of little sayings that have become known as Fennisms (named after the poet himself).
My Dad taught me how to treat other people…even when they’re being complete ass hats. He was the president of our Little League and had to deal with adults acting like children…but he handled this masterfully.
For those of you that know me, shut your pie holes. I’m clearly still working through this lesson and still feel that saying what I think is more therapeutic than dancing around other peoples feelings.
But there’s always hope, right?
My Dad led by example and taught me many of life’s greatest lessons. He planted these seeds that clearly needed more time than expected to bear fruit. I’m forever grateful for his leadership, guidance and compassion when I screwed up. (It’s likely to happen again Dad…don’t get too comfortable).
Over the last decade, I’ve grown more personally and professionally than all of my previous years combined. There have been significant challenges during this time that would have completely derailed me earlier in life. It’s been said that the teacher appears when the student is ready and this certainly feels appropriate for me. One of my guiding principles is “how would my Dad handle this”.
So I called Kenny and Ray and invited them over with the cheapest beer they could find!
I’m still growing as a person, husband, father and business owner. My Dad set a great example and a high standard. On my really good days, I can actually walk in his shadow and be the man he taught me to be.
To this day, my Dad is still there whenever I need him. Just to be sure, I called him yesterday to borrow a circular saw. He showed up almost immediately knowing damn good and well I can’t operate power tools.
But he’s always been there for me and that’s the kind of father I want to be.