Back in my childhood, I remember looking forward to being a dad and being able to do what I wanted to do.
When my dad wanted to go fishing, he loaded up a vehicle with poles and the kids who wanted to join him for an evening of fishing. Sometimes we’d fish from shore, and sometimes we’d take our little fishing boat out on the reservoir.
When he wanted to go for a bike ride and get ice cream, he’d invite us to go out with him to a country ice cream parlor a few miles outside our town.
When he had a project around the house he wanted to do, he’d have me follow behind so I could retrieve whatever tools might be needed.
Yeah, it sure looked like fun doing whatever he wanted to do. At least that’s what fatherhood looked like to me, being his right-hand man all those years.
It really wasn’t until the first time I took my own children fishing before I realized how wrong I might have been. The things I enjoy most about fishing — the peace, the calmness of casting and catching fish — aren’t really in play when you take your children with you. Most of your time’s spent untangling lines, putting worms on the hook or helping take a fish off for your children.
That’s when I started thinking about another of those things my dad did because it appeared he wanted to do it. For years and years, he grilled his own dinner on Father’s Day.
When it comes to Mother’s Day, we knew the importance of not tasking our mom with anything ordinary. Yet on our dad’s day, it became expected he’d apply the heat to hamburgers and hot dogs.
This continued long after his children left his house. Every year, we’d return, and the crowd got bigger and bigger as his seven children started bringing children of their own. He always seemed to be doing what he wanted to do, though, manning that grill as the host when he should’ve been the guest of honor.
That tradition ended a few years ago. I’m not really sure why, and I never really asked. I didn’t want to learn he wasn’t doing what he really wanted to do all those years.
This year, I’ve invited my parents over to our house for Father’s Day. I’ll be manning the grill, applying the heat to hot dogs and hamburgers. I suspect I’ll toss a steak or two on there to show my appreciation for the man who taught me how to be a man.
It still seems odd to me, celebrating Father’s Day by having a dad do the work of cooking the food. But now that I’m older, I understand it better too.
It’s similar to taking your kids fishing or any of those other tasks I remember doing with my dad growing up. You may not get to do exactly what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. You learn that you love sharing what you like to do with your children. Spending the time with them is what matters. It’s your way of saying “I love you.”
When you think of it that way, fatherhood really is doing what you want to do.