I have always been frustrated by my own abilities. I have a deep appreciation for the skills I admire in others and the ability to emulate those skills to a certain degree, but it’s coupled with a keen sense of my own shortcomings. Take teaching for example. I had the good fortune to have not one, but two mentors of the highest caliber. One inspired me to become a teacher, something I never before had the courage to do, and the other took me under his wing and gave me real world experience; he let me fail and showed me how to learn from it. He also let me know that I did not need to be so uptight all the time, especially with kids – but that’s something I’m still working on. I’m not the only one that these two men inspired, and every day I try to live up to the example they set as teachers. I get many wonderful compliments from parents, colleagues, and children. They tell me that I am a great teacher, but every day I feel that I land far short of the mark. I know I’m right, too. I’m the one there every day, the one who is in front of the class, living those million daily decisions that add up to a classroom day, and simply put – I’m not what I could be. I am not what I should be. Part of it comes from my tendency to get lost in the details of teaching – the paperwork, the routines – so much so that I lose sense of the big picture. Without a sense of direction, I end up treading water, just taking care of what is right in front of me. The rest of it is just plain inexperience. It usually takes me longer than most people to learn to do something really well, and classroom teaching is like having the Pacific poured down your throat – it’s a lot to take in at once. So, I don’t doubt that I’ll get there – to that future point where I don’t feel like a complete fraud when I thank someone for a compliment – it’s just going to take me some time.
I imagine I will feel the same way about being a father – overwhelmed, admiring of other fathers, and all too aware of my limitations. Again, I expect time to bestow confidence, but there is the gnawing reality that, unlike classroom teaching, you don’t get to start fresh with a new crop of kids every year. Nope. As a parent, the summer ends, and it’s the same kid staring up at you, only they’re a year older and they know all your tricks. People are already telling me I’m going to be a great dad, and I appreciate it, I really do, but I want to think I’m a great dad. The author Michael Chabon, in his book Manhood for Amateurs, writes that fathers have it easy compared to moms, mostly due to our culture’s low expectations for dads. A dad shows up at a soccer game or takes his kid to buy new shoes and he’s a “great dad,” but moms are expected to do these things as a matter of course. In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, there’s a single section devoted to dads. I read it, expecting insight into my new role, and it more or less told me to: curb my late night poker games, be willing to do the laundry and the dishes, and be sympathetic to my wife.
I’ll be setting my sights a little higher.
53 days until baby.