Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: My Dad Hero

Get Them Ready

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article


Photo by Sergey Novikov

At 15 years old, I signed my second child up for an online driving school. After he did the requisite lessons, I gathered the seemingly excessive paperwork and made an appointment at the DMV.

I filled out the DMV paperwork, including the question that makes my heart stop: who should be notified in the event of an accident or death? Gulp. Deep breath. Each time my pen hovers above the paper, wondering if I refuse to fill out that part, maybe I’ll somehow protect my kids from an unforeseen accident or death.

I sign the form, the magnitude of the moment not lost on me. My kid smiles for the picture. We take the obligatory DMV “look at me” photo to share with family, and then go home to start the year of on-the-road driving practice before my teen turns 16.

I am not the one who takes the kids out for driving. Their father, though generally more impassioned and quick-tempered in everyday life, is weirdly calm and stable in the passenger seat with our teen drivers. I am, well, not.

Anyway, back to a year ago, I signed the middle kid up for his first day of road driving with an instructor, impressed with myself at being so far ahead on my to-do list. I casually mentioned at dinnertime that my 15-year-old would have a two-hour drive with the instructor the next day, and his dad came to irritable attention.

“What? Why would you do that? He’s not ready. He hasn’t driven yet. No! We didn’t do that to our daughter. Why would you do that to him?”

I rolled my eyes and canceled the driving lesson, muttering under my breath about being the one who always has to schedule the drives. Over the next few days, my son went out with his dad in the car. Reading the car’s instruction book. Learning to turn the car on. Understanding the buttons. The parking brake. The windshield wipers.

The next day, he learned to press the accelerator and also the brake. He drove around the parking lot without hitting the concrete base of the street lights. Then, finally, he was able to pull out onto a street that didn’t have traffic.

The following days, they drove on the low-traffic streets. After that, his dad was finally ready for him to buckle up with the instructor and hit the Houston roads. Before he sent him out, he had to prepare him.

Similarly, this year my daughter was going to make a long road trip back to college. She headed out early in the morning, and I thought she had said good-bye to her dad the night before. When he woke up and she was gone, I realized she hadn’t. He came to irritable attention again.

“What? Where is she? Why didn’t you wake me up? See where she is and bring her back.”

I texted my daughter, who thankfully was still down the street getting her coffee for the trip.”Seriously? I have to come back?” I could see the eye roll in her car, but 10 minutes later I saw her pull into the driveway.

Her dad went out there and popped the trunk. Checked the oil and a few other levels I didn’t recognize. Checked the air in her tires and then left to go fill them with air. Topped off the car with gas, and brought it home to send his daughter — the one he only yesterday read books to every night — on her way.

In both of these experiences, my kids’ dad came to irritable attention because he hadn’t gotten to do what he sees as his fatherly role. In his mind, his job is to get them ready, to prepare them for whatever they will face on the road of life.

When they were in elementary school, he called out word after word to prepare them for the spelling bee. He would discuss what they were reading. Before they skipped a rock in the Colorado creek, he showed them how to hold it. Before they cast a fishing rod, he showed them how it worked. Before they rode a bike, he ran alongside them.

Before they started a sport, he would go out and throw a football, or shoot hoops, or hit off a tee. Before a volleyball game, he would toss balls. If he knew my son would be pitching in a baseball game, he taught him correct form before he was on the mound.

If they had to give a presentation to the class, he would have them present to him first. If they had a difficult social situation, he prepared them to handle it. When my daughter got a news story from TikTok, he ranted for an hour about how the kids need to question the source of everything they hear and see and read.

I made some suggestions for the college application essay and got rejected by my daughter. But dad’s suggestions? They all made sense.

His preparation has been endless. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind. Don’t ever let anyone tell you who you are. Show up. Be available. Give it your all. The lessons are non-stop — some wanted and some not.

He has so many that I have a running list of them I am keeping. “The only way you fail is by quitting,” for example. Or “don’t walk around in a fog of misperception.” His spicey vocabulary has lovingly prepared them for every swear word they’ll ever hear.

He’s getting our kids ready for the real world, one lesson at a time. Like my dad did for me, and like his dad, in his own way, did for him. And so on through the generations.

We’ve got to get these kids ready for the world. It seems like such a daunting task, but it happens one lesson at a time. Thank you to all who father. To the fathers, yes, but also to the step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, family friends, coaches, teachers, and mentors out there.

Happy Father's Day.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.