Never did I think being a dad would be so enjoyable, challenging, and stressful. I realize now that I took for granted all that my parents did for my sister and I growing up. Throughout my life, both of my parents routinely worked more than one job to support our family. At one time, both of my parents worked the graveyard shift because it offered the most hourly pay.
I never went without. I had everything I needed at all times. I never went starving (other than when I voluntarily “cut” weight for wrestling). I always had clothes. I always had rides to wherever I needed to go.
I played sports year-round growing up. My dad shuttled me all over the Mid-Atlantic to play baseball, football, and wrestle. I can’t remember him ever complaining about it. If you know my dad, he will let you know if he wasn’t happy.
However, he never had a problem getting up after only a few hours of sleep to watch me wrestle. For that matter, my parents only missed me wrestle once in 137 matches during college! They drove to Georgia, Iowa, Boston, all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and more. Vacation time was taken to watch me compete. They always showed up with snacks and treats for my teammates and me for the bus ride back to school. The one match they missed was against Hofstra University, and fortunately, they didn’t miss much as the guy man-handled me for seven minutes and I lost 7 – 2.
Now, I am a dad. As I get older, I remember more and more the sacrifices my parents made for my sister and I. I wish I weren’t as much of a challenge for them as I was. I wish I wouldn’t have been as resistant to the “push” I was given from my dad. I look back now and can only be grateful for the push I received. The push to be the best baseball player, wrestler, or football player I could be. The push to be an honest person. The push to be a hard worker. The push to not be lazy. The push to be a generous person. The push to be who you are, not a person who is trying to look good in front of others. I go back in my head and think about those things more and more now as a parent. While not perfect, my parents did a great job teaching me the same core values, which I am trying to impart to my own kids today.
My kids are a blessing, but they still bring many inherent challenges to Kristel and I. Our heart aches when they struggle. We feel their pain at times when they are sad. It is tough seeing them fail, and it is incredible when we see them succeed! It is crazy how proud they can make us and just five, short minutes later, you are so angry with something they did.
We try to teach them lessons, but the truth is that they will only learn when they are ready. We keep trying anyway and hope someday they will “hear” us and when they do, it is a silent and personal celebration! We hope they are safe. We pray that they will make the right decisions. We protect them, shelter them, and try to keep them from growing up because we know it will get harder and harder as they get older. “Please stay young and innocent,” we whisper to them in our minds. Yet, they grow up regardless, and it is time for them to experience life on their own.
It is funny when you think about it. I am known as Ellie or Mason’s dad to their friends. I am not John or Coach Kless, I have become the chauffeur, maid, and financier for my kids. I am showed little appreciation for my sacrifices, and I am usually last in line for anything in my house. It is unwritten that I will make money, mow the lawn, vacuum, try to fix something, and have “the talks.” All in a while, I am thinking to myself, I can barely get my own stuff straight.
I have resigned myself to the fact that Kristel is the quarterback and I am the center. I snap the ball and block, she does the rest. I am actually OK with that. I like being the grunt. It fits me better. Once in a while though, an audible is called, and my position changes. I become the quarterback and call the cadence. Ice cream for everyone! “Dad, can we have pizza for dinner?” “Of course, kind and loving children!”
I sit right now thinking about what it means to me to be a dad. All I can say is that it is a gift. Being a dad is my greatest accomplishment.
It is one that I will never be able to surpass. It is challenging! It is frustrating! It’s humbling!
But, it’s pretty awesome as well! I am lucky. I am fortunate to have a great dad, who did everything for us. I can only hope that I can do the same for my own kids. I have already missed more of their sporting events than my parents missed mine. It’s is hard to compete with a 99.27 attendance percentage.
In all fairness, my kids play many more games than I ever did when I was a kid, but that is a post for another time.
Previously Published on Coach Kless Blog