To get through a forest, all you have to do is walk in any direction which leads to the clearing. There isn't much to it. You may skip, run or step cautiously. Smell the flowers, climb the trees or just follow the path. You choose.
But when you are leading someone, the focus is to find the safest, quickest, calmest way. The responsibility of another life overshadows the gleeful "Hey let's taste all the mushrooms" frolicking.
This book is about being a dad, leading his son, through the woods of life. It's not a manual. But the basics are there, and men of all ages are used to making do with the basics.
It was the basics that made us dads, afterall. The glowing romance, the quirky laughter, the teasing, the gifts, the proposal, the hectic wedding planning...And then, in one quick blur, your wife says, "I'm pregnant!", the doctor says "It's a boy!", the relatives say "He's the cute version of you!" and the lady at the drugstore says, "Would you like to buy the jumbopack?".
You just reached dadhood. Welcome. Grab a cigar and mull over life. You'll need it.
Sometime before the baby's 12th birthday, the realization will sink in: I've become a three-letter word. I'm a dad now.
Later that night, you'll be in bed, wide awake. Your brain will be thumbing through the usual list of preoccupations: "So, uhhh, what if I lose my job...? What if I can't pay the bills...? Or what if I have to ask my father-in-law for a loan..?". Sometimes, the brain will read a notecard from the Philosophy pile: "Is this all there is to life? So now I just get old and die?" Or from the Sexy pile: "How can I make her melt?"
On this night, Brain will touch on something new: "So, your son is going to have to learn the ropes. I guess that's up to you. You good?"
Wait — what?
"Yeah, your son. He'll find his own way in life. But I'm guessing you don't want him to learn the long way like you did, right?"
GAH — right! What do I do?
"Umm. Give him some pointers? Share wisdom...? You'll think of something."
And thinking of something is exactly what dads do most.
Call it whatever you like, but that big round shiny thing will always be the moon.
Son, this world was not ready for you. Your crib was ready, your room was ready, and your parents were ready, but no one else was. The world is never quite ready for innocence and joy.
A lot of people like loud, popular voices. But know this: it's the consistent voices that are worth your time. Saying something loudly doesn't make it true; it just makes it louder. Truth is true even when whispered.
The truth is that you were born a man. I know because I was there. It wasn't a dolphin that came screaming into this world on July 2nd. It was you, my little man.
You may recall that there aren't many expectations to meet while in the womb. You must grow and you must move. That's all. You even kicked your mother and no one got on your case.
But outside of the womb there are quite a few expectations. You didn't ask for them. They just are. You live with your parents. We supply for you. You belong to us. You obey us. We love you. We get to name you, carry you and dress you and you don't get much say in it during the first few years. It's the way it is.
But other expectations are plain imagination. We expected you to say "Mommy" first, be scared of everything and cry all the time. You said "Dah-dee" first, you are fearless and quiet. Good call, son.
Plus, on a national and international scale, the expectations are escalated considerably. Everyone wants a bit of your attention. Most of them can be ignored.
The world says I shouldn't acknowledging what is obvious to everyone: you are a man. This is the role you can fulfill the fullest; no other role can fit as well as this one. You are and will always be a man. The question, of course, is what kind of man you'll be. All men answer this question daily through how they live.
The role of a man does not require a beard or muscles. It's not a fat paycheck or skinny blonde that makes a man. Manhood is branded on the heart. It is a readiness to serve others and lead them by your example.
Throughout history, the heroes are always the ones who sacrifice on behalf of others. They were men and women who fought, spoke up and led. They served greatly. But mind you: their intentions were born out of their identities. They didn't act in order to become. They knew who they were, and they acted out their being.
Your starting point is this: you are a man. You will lift heavy things, kill scary bugs, and get your hands greasy because you are a man. You will give your seat to women, foot the bill on date night and speak up for the abused because you are a man. You will take the initiative to do what's right even when the world is squawking over something stupid.
You are a man and no one can take that from you.