During one of The Kid's first long visits, I decided she should partake in this ritual the dog and I have started. So I bundled her up, put her in her stroller and began the delicate task of pushing a stroller while hanging on to the leash with Barney attached to the other end, a nonplussed Barney at that.
As we were walking across the crosswalk on Jefferson, headed back home, a guy waiting at the light rolled down his window and said, "Hey man. That's a good look."
A big smile came across my face and I said a grateful thank you to him. It was the first time a stranger said anything to me assuming I was a father, and hearing those words just affirmed that my wife and I are right in our desire to adopt.
Later it hit me that his complement might be motivated more by the perceived scarcity of men doing the right things for their children than it was a commentary on my parenting skills.
I have a few friends who are in and out of court with their ex-wives, trying to get more visitation time with their kids and working diligently to get physical custody of their kids. I have several friends who are married and who are present in their children's lives, attending every soccer game and dance recital they can.
Sadly, for my generation anyway, it seemed as if our fathers had forgotten about us. The lure of another family, drugs or trying not to be like their fathers seemed to strong for many of our dads to resist. I won't delve into the debate about no-fault divorce and the rise of single parent homes resulting soon afterward, but it seems that it was easier for the fathers of Generation X to find themselves unencumbered of the burdens of parenting.
I was fortunate to have my grandfather as a model to follow. For some friends, it was their father or step-father. For others it was a man from church or their next-door neighbor. I gravitate towards the men who follow in those footsteps, making sure their actions as fathers speak for them. I hope to always be among those men.
But what happens for those young men and women who don't have a father figure to look up to? Will they know how to act when they have kids? Are they self-aware enough to find a partner who is willing to accept them and help raise their kids? Who do they turn to for answers that only dads seem to have? Am I strong enough to be a good father to The Kid and help show others the way?
Someday, a father on a family walk with his kids will be a normal occurrence, something so commonplace that there is no need to share a complement. Until that day, these questions will always be on my mind.