Let me begin by saying that I am a huge Kevin Smith fan. For those of you who don’t know him, his is the creative genius behind such classics as ‘Clerks’, ‘Chasing Amy’ and ‘Dogma’. I really like Kevin and I think he has one hell of a knack for story telling. But I have to say that he’s not my favorite person right now. Why? Well, because he went out and wrote (and directed) the movie ‘Jersey Girl’. And even though I am still in the process of seeing the flick (it’s currently paused), Kevin’s already got me thinking about way too much.
The premise of the movie is about a young, successful man forced to raise his daughter after his wife passes away during childbirth. It is said that so much of a woman’s identity and self esteem is directly attributable to her relationship with her father. To those people who came up with this concept, all I can say is, “Thanks a freak’n lot!” Yeah, no pressure for this guy! Geeees!
Ever since I first came to this realization, I have been totally gun shy with how I am with my daughter. I can’t even begin to describe the anxiety and self doubt that creeps into my mind whenever I am faced with a situation in which I need to discipline my child. Am I doing the right thing? Will she grow up to hate me? Am I doing or saying enough? It really is nerve racking, and the idea that I have a lifetime of this is …. well …. just crazy!
From the moment I separated from my wife, my time with my kids has been significantly reduced. On week days I spend maybe three hours tops with them (and that’s on a good day). I do get to see them more often on the weekends, but it’s still not like I used to when I was at home. I think about the important things in my life (other than my kids, of course), and I ask myself if I could tolerate being able to experience that only 15 hours per week. That’s less than part-time, which I guess makes me less than a part-time dad.
Now before you go feeling all sorry for me, it’s important to recognize that this is the path I chose. And in the grand scheme of things, this is where I need to be. Not because I don’t like being with my kids, but because I know in the long run I will be able to be a much better dad to them. You can’t make your kids happy if you aren’t truly happy with yourself. And although happiness can sometimes be fleeting, true happiness must be the cornerstone on which true parenting is built.
I call on Hollywood once again and take you to the Ron Howard film ‘Parenthood’ (written by Lowell Ganz and Babloo Mandel). “You know, Mrs. Buchman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”
I know I am not perfect, but I think I am a great dad. However, I know my best is still to come. I know that my job on Earth is to not only be a parent, providing food, shelter and emotional nourishment, but also to be a coach. To lead by example. To be a role model and a hero to my kids.
I do what I can with the situation being what it is in the knowledge that with every day it will get better. And I do what I do knowing that although sometimes I will get it wrong, for the most part I am doing something right. I can’t take all the credit, and I would be negligent to not mention and give credit to their mother. She is an amazing woman and I could not think of anyone else I would rather have raising my kids than her.
Being a dad is an honor and a privilege, and as challenging as it can be, it is also incredibly rewarding. To all you dads out there, I want to remind you that your kids should be a priority and not a burden. And to all you ladies out there, I have to confess there is no text book on how to do this. Unlike Hollywood, this script is a continual work in progress with each day giving us new pages, new plot twists and new experiences. We hope for the best and work to achieve that ….. because sometimes that is all we can do.