My First Father’s Day

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and except for the fact that I already know Lauren’s going to give me a present, I am not really that excited about it. Actually, I am embarrassed. As a father, I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m not a real father, because in the first year since Betsy was born, all I’ve had to do is rock her to sleep, feed her, change her diaper, and play with her.

To me, this is not parenting. I know, I am crazy. But parenting to me is when I have to start “teaching” them something or setting limits. I think when I can start saying “no” to Betsy and have her understand it, then I will have arrived as a parent.

To me, parenting is about being an authority figure, cracking the whip. Saying things like, “No, you can’t get a treat at the store. We’re going to go home and have dinner,” and having your kid have a complete meltdown. Or yelling something like, “Hey! Quiet down, already!”

It’s also about doing things like teaching how to ride a bike or tie her shoes. Those seem like legit, fatherly things — things that are useful. But just hanging out on the floor and playing with her stacking toys? That just feels like babysitting.

How sad is that, especially for an improviser? Why can’t I enjoy this time when the majority of the time is hanging out and playing with her? Why is that not fatherly? Because that is not how I am programmed. I make fun work.

I have been cast in probably one the best roles in my life as a caring, kind, benevolent father, and all I can think is I know a hundred other people who play the part better. People say to me, “How can you not feel like a father? She looks just like you.” It’s true, but trust me, that doesn’t matter when you are nuts like me.

I want to be a good father and to be the caring, kind, benevolent father that I’d like to be, but I have to believe I deserve it. And I think that starts with believing that hanging out, being present, and playing are just as valuable as teaching. Here’s hoping I start believing.

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