An imperfect father. He is someone who knows less than he thinks he knows. He is like a novice captain on his maiden voyage navigating the uncharted seas and leading his crew he calls family. His crew look to him for mental and emotional direction and yet he is often lost and unsure himself. As he tries his best to avoid the high rocks and raging tides of life that threaten to sink his ship, he often fails in many ways to live up to the high standards he had set up for himself.
His projected image of invulnerability is often broken by his helplessness when his children cry foul and rebel against his tottering authority. His only reprieve as a father is to dock on little islands and rest on its unhurried shores to reflect, recharge and renew himself. Sometimes these quiet shores provide a refuge for him to recalibrate his attitude towards fatherhood where he can further hone his experiences to become more understanding, sensitive and encouraging to his children. But sometimes he misses the parenting cues and loses his head over self-conjured fears and jealously guarded pride.
This is the toll a father pays for pretending that he is in control and for maintaining his commanding heights when facing the storms of life.
If another metaphor helps, an imperfect father is like a juggler who thinks he can juggle more than he can manage. But when life throws him one ball after another, and as his children grow up and face their own disappointments, he struggles to keep all the balls in the air. Yet at such time, he will resist all appearance to look weak and out of control. Alas, his steeliness is but a mirage. This resistance only makes the juggling even tougher. This is where the unrealistic urge to keep it all together flies off his hands and the balls will all come falling down.
When that time comes, when he is in emotional disarray, an imperfect father has a choice. He can pick the balls up one at a time and start all over - this time taking it slow. Or he can attempt the impossible feat of juggling everything all at once again - hoping this time it will be different. But the raw reality of fatherhood will not change its swing just because an imperfect father is deluded enough to think that he is always on top of things.
Whether he is a captain of his ship or a juggler of life, an imperfect father must give up this obsession to be in control. In life’s insidious bends, he can neither expect a smooth sail nor the dexterity of a divine juggler. He is a father in progress (sometimes in regress). But more importantly, he differs little from a learning child in matters concerning the parenting of a growing child. He is completely new in this demanding enterprise of molding a life or two. His leadership will therefore always be probationary, even frequently self-correcting. If it takes a village to raise a kid, then for fatherhood, it will - in addition to a village - takes a heart of humility, a soul of empathy, and a spirit of hope to see his offspring through this tortuous journey.
But an imperfect father is not without assistance in this sacred yet arduous task. He needs to be constantly reminded that he has in his heart the greatest help of all and that is his undying love for his children. This love will be his lodestar to guide him forward when he is lost, discouraged and despondent. This love is not exacting or obsessive at the expense of the growth, happiness and welfare of his children. This love will not force his lost childhood and unrealized dreams on the childhood of his own children. This love is sensitive to their needs and it overlooks their shortcomings.
It is also aware of his own shortcomings. And it understands that two wounded lives, father’s and child’s, are joined together to confront and overcome the trials of life and not to pit one against the other in an ensuing battle for vanity, superiority and supremacy. In fact, the imperfect father can almost catch a glimpse of perfection when he surrenders to this unconditional love.
So an imperfect father has a lot to learn. In this journey, he will never arrive because as much as he sees the child in his growing children, they also see the child in him. Both are learning together. And as iron sharpens iron, the roots of fatherhood is further deepened in this intimate and ongoing process where both their character are equally sharpened. Cheerz.