It wasn’t a big deal. The owners of the store had changed many times since the early 50s. I didn’t even know why a kid would want to have a fake moustache as a toy. How lame and old-fashioned! The thing only cost $1.25. It was no big deal at all.
But to Dad it was. Here he was, a 40-year-old man going back to his hometown with his wife and kids in tow, walking into the former J. J. Newbury department store and telling the manager, “When I was a kid I stole a fake moustache toy from this store. I want to apologize for that and repay you for what it would be worth today.” You can imagine the strange look the man gave him. It wasn’t a big deal. Even I knew it wasn’t a big deal. Why humiliate yourself after all these years over something that cost no more than two candy bars?
To prove a point, that’s why.
Every Dad is and can rightfully be a tad prideful. A Dad should be a rock for his kids. Dad is an unswerving force for the world to reckon with. Dad is a man big enough in ego for his kids to brag about on the playground. But every Dad needs to face a moment in which he shows his kids that he is not perfect. But the key is being a big enough man to face it like a man. Dad engaged in this simple restitution act to show my brother and I that very principle. He was a man with a good sense of pride and destiny, but he wasn’t so full of himself that he couldn’t humble himself in front of his kids.
We didn’t have our hopes that Dad was perfect dashed against the rocks that day. Instead we knew from that day on that Dad was a big enough man to admit he was wrong and do something to correct it. Even if it seemed like no big deal.
Finding the Balance by Focusing on Two Goals
As Dads we want to emulate this humility. Finding the right balance is the tricky part. None of us as Dads wants to be a weak, cream puff, pushover around our kids, especially when it comes to admitting we’re wrong. That’s tantamount to crying over spilled-milk for “big-bad-Dad.” We also don’t want to be prideful jerks that never let our kids see us crack. Some of us had that kind of Dad. Holding up that kind of image fakery severs communication lines and passes along the wrong torch for our kids. We want to be Dads that are strong enough to give our kids a sense of security, but humble enough to connect emotionally with them as imperfect people just like they are. If we keep those twin goals in mind we will be a lot closer to getting there:
1) A sense of security provided by Dad’s confidence—The key to making this a reality for our kids is our consistency. There’s nothing that communicates safety like a Dad that is in control of the situation. And there’s nothing that ruins that security like a Dad who is out of control. Often times we Dads try to act or look tough in some way, but because we look like we’re out of control, our kids actually end up with less confidence in us. Consistent confidence in “doing what’s right” is what “those who come behind us” want to see in us.
2) An emotional connection created by Dad’s humility—What is interesting about this issue is that it flows from the first. When a Dad humbles himself and apologizes to a friend, to his wife, or even directly to his kids, the little ones somehow see that Dad is still in control. In a way—Dad becomes someone who is still right even when he’s wrong. If we Dads think in this way we may start to apologize all the time for no reason and get hooked on it! Try it sometime… instead of covering up for yourself or giving some fake excuse to your kids, try humbling yourself for a change. I promise it’ll be great. That is, as long as your wife doesn’t faint when she sees you do it.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- Do you have a story of stealing something as a kid that you still remember?
- When have you said you were sorry for something big?
- On a scale of 1-10 how difficult is it for you to humble yourself and say you’re sorry?
- How good are you at being strong enough to give your kids a sense of security?
- How good are you at being humble enough to connect emotionally with your kids as an imperfect person?