I often wonder how my son, years from now, will look back on our relationship. I hope Connor, who is 11, has strong, enduring memories.
I’m not naïve enough to think all his memories will be fond. But I hope, most of all, that Connor will know I loved him with all my heart and did my best as a dad.
Recently, I saw a book that spoke to this strong father-son bond and gave me encouragement. It’s called A Life’s Work: Fathers and Sons. It’s written by Bed Bradlee, the former Washington Post editor who oversaw the landmark Watergate coverage in the early 1970s, and his son.
Ben Bradlee writes poignantly about his father-son relationships with his dad and with his son. Quinn, who is in his late 20s, was born with a heart defect and is learning disabled.
“This book is about fathers and sons and how they forge relationships,” they write in the prologue. “You cannot have a real father-son relationship without being together. Nor can you have one without love. Sometimes it takes work. Not just during the early years, or the teenage years, or the midlife years. It takes a lifetime.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Fatherhood presents different challenges at different times. You need to modify your approach as your child ages. I hope to have the intuition and flexibility to be the dad Connor needs at different points throughout his life.
Depression didn’t dampen relationship
A Life’s Work: Fathers and Sons begins with Ben Bradlee’s recollections of his father, Frederick Josiah Bradlee Jr. His dad lost his job as a successful banker during the Depression and never regained financial success.
“But he worked hard, persevered, and came out of the Depression with his shoulders straight and squared,” Ben Bradlee writes.
Despite the financial hardships of the Depression, “it turned out to be a great thing for my family,” he continues. “It brought us even closer together.”
That’s an amazing passage. I would assume the upheaval of the times would strain a family, not make it stronger. It’s a good lesson for us today. I’ve had some financial challenges, as most single dads have. I didn’t like them at the time but, in hindsight, my relationship with Connor didn’t suffer. It may have grown stronger because I became more aware of the importance of family.
Quinn Bradlee’s comments in the book about father-son relationships are also insightful. He talks about the times he spent outdoors with his father while growing up.
“I thought my dad was God,” Quinn writes. “I thought he knew everything in the world, and he was my teacher. I learned all my life lessons being in the woods with my father. I learned more there than in school, by far.”
Wow. I don’t expect my son to think of me as God. But I do hope I teach him core values and give him a foundation for success.
“I want to be like my dad because of the father that he’s been to me,” Quinn writes.
I can’t think of higher praise for a dad. Someday, I hope my son has the same thought.
Spend time thinking about the kind of father you want to be. Don’t just muddle through life as a dad. Be intentional. Set a course and make sure you stay on it. Create a storehouse of memories for your child.