Are we really a family of four?
A family of four… that phrase sounds so strange to me. It’s like we’re the perfect, stereotypical, American family. But it isn’t what I thought It would be like. When I think of such a family, I picture my Mom, my Dad, and two curious boys. But I’m not my Dad… at least not yet.
My Dad was strong, principled, and always completely in control. He didn’t ever sleep in, or forget to take out the trash, or arrive late to church, or over-commit himself, or procrastinate getting an oil change. He didn’t react in anger, fall through on a commitment, make a selfish choice, or give in to a guilty pleasure. He certainly wasn’t afraid… not of change, or people , or uncertainty, or public speaking, or spiders, or whatever things people are afraid of. Of course, he was flawed. His singing wasn’t great, and his dancing was worse, but when it came time to sing or dance, he always made a noble attempt. He wouldn’t refuse, or shy away from the possibility of embarrassment. He was above such tendencies, or so I thought.
Now that I have a real education, a real job, and two kids of my own, I keep expecting to wake up one day and be just like him.
But I don’t.
I struggle every day to not take the path of least resistance, but I often do it anyways. I’m afraid of all sorts of things… of making a bad impression, of saying the wrong thing, of demonstrating how ignorant I actually am. I seek validation and I want to impress my friends. I think of myself before others. Of course, I have some qualities. My dancing isn’t bad, and my singing is better, but I shy away from opportunities to share my talents with others. I get frustrated with my kids, and even more frustrated with myself.
These flaws of mine always seem to stick around, despite my efforts to overcome them. And slowly, I’m realizing that this perfect, stereotypical, American family I’ve been looking forward to having, doesn’t actually exist.
Is there really anybody out there who is completely in control? Who is selfless? Who has no fear? Does anybody perfectly balance their priorities, skillfully dividing their time across the things competing for their attention? Are we not the only ones who are living like “The Simpsons” in a picturesque, 21st century “Leave it to Beaver” America?
President John F. Kennedy said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” Perhaps this is not only true, but also ideal. We cannot go through the next stages of our lives, riding on the same assumptions that got us through the previous stages. Maybe my family of four won’t be exactly as I expected, but it can still be good. For me that means reinventing the kind of father I ought to be, in a way that is compatible with who I am.