Fatherhood continues to be a work in progress

By Todd Franko

I’m with the boys today — Mitch, Max and Maguire.

No real plan; no real agenda. Just father and sons.

That’s kind of how it’s been for 12 years now — no real plan; no real agenda; just take the path that’s there, or make one when you want to.

On Friday there were tremendous messages on fatherhood that came out of an event convened by our First Dad, President Obama, and which included celebrity dads and regular dads (Papapalooza weekend for Obama continues today with a great essay in Parade magazine inside The Vindy).

But a Friday message from Obama sticks with me this morning.

When his daughters were born, Obama promised them that they would live a life better than he lived.

I created no such plan, created no such agenda.

I just created.

The rest, I figured, I’d just figure out — a perpetual work in progress.

Day to day. Year to year. Lego creation to Lego creation.

Twelve years into fatherhood, I’d give myself a B- in terms of being a dad. That’s probably my greatest achievement as a dad — that I don’t consider my achievements all that successful, and that there’s a lot more work to do.

Typical of a lot of dads, I believe my wife has succeeded more as a mom than I have as a dad. I teased early on in our parenting that she would lead the first half of their childhood; I would lead the second half. It was a more accurate pronouncement than I imagined.

So on this 100th anniversary of the first Father’s Day, fatherhood for me is at a crossroads.

My sons are at an age (12, 10 and 8) when they understand more about things — life, work, girls, boy parts, me and my wife, money, careers, etc.

And my own dad’s at an age when medical moments start to raise more of an eyebrow. The most major medical occurrence of his life was just two weeks ago. It was a blunt reminder that a dad’s life is still part of the child’s life — regardless of the miles between. Parent and child; father and son.

Connected to fatherhood at both ends, I’m a work in progress — more assumption than acumen, more hunch than history, more man than manual.

What agenda I do not set seems to get set for me.

This year has brought on the topic of girls. Freckles and not being attractive came in step with that.

The discovery of the mechanics of boy parts arrived this year. One son said to my wife incredulously one morning: “There it is again.”

The lesson of money and hard work has been there since their first lemonade stand five years ago. Maybe I’ve taught economics too rigidly, as my oldest has been heard telling his brothers “that’s too expensive to get.”

That lesson of work crossed a major line recently with my oldest son’s first lawn-cutting job. Hummingbird Hill Mayor Dailey pronounced it a major threshold in a man’s life — both for the man passing off the lawn mower and the young man accepting the mower. He traced his family lineage through the passing of the lawn mower (Such profoundness in a lawn mower. That’s why he’s mayor).

Lessons aren’t all serious, and I did offer a lighter-side agenda item this summer.

It’s the Summer of Springsteen.

I have this belief that since men are tragically inept at communicating to their wives and children, on the eighth day, God created Bruce Springsteen.

If music is a highway to the soul, then Bruce is the toll booth collector, at least for the average American male.

So far, I have the boys deep into “Born to Run,” “Hungry Heart,” “Badlands” and of course, “Youngstown.” Chapter Two will likely be the “Nebraska” album, I think. There’s no agenda set for Chapter Three.

I look to many things to help me figure out fatherhood.

Hunch, history, assumption and experience, for sure. My wife, my parents, my peers, of course. Dr. Rosemond and Dr. Drew when I’m at a loss, and Dr. Springsteen when I’m not.

Rewarding, enriching, confusing and profound.

That, and more, I find daily in being a dad.

I can be tough on the boys and short-fused at times.

And each time, I quietly second-guess my tact. Then along comes a moment like last week.

I took two of my sons to golf league at Mill Creek Park.

My youngest went to baseball with my wife. He asked her if I’d still be able to make some part of his game.

Yes, she answered. But why, she asked.

“Because when I do something wrong, he yells at me to do it right.”

And with that, he ran off to the dugout.

Yep — a work in progress.

Happy Father’s Day.

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