A friend of mine asked if my older son and I wanted to join him and his kids at a “Dad and Me” camp this weekend. He told me how much fun the kids would have and all of the different kinds of activities dads can do with their children to connect with each other and with God. I was nice enough and told him I’d think about it, but my real answer, the one I didn’t say out loud, was No.
I thought about it for a few days. I made up some pretty good excuses not to go. It was too short of a notice, if only I had known about it sooner. It was too far away from home. It would cost money.
But if I’m honest with myself, the real reason that I decided in my head to say No was because sometimes I just don’t know how to be a dad.
Sure, I know how to discipline my boys, how to give them piggy-back rides, make them meals, tuck them in at night, and do typical father type stuff. But I don’t know how to do dad stuff.
The last time I went fishing, I was seven years old and I accidentally hooked one of my friends in the head when I released the line too early during a backwards cast, scarring both of us for life. And the last time I went canoeing, I was ten years old at my dad’s company picnic sitting with him inside a canoe at the lake and I had the brilliant idea to stand up, causing both of us to tip over.
I’ll never forget the image of him in shock, sinking slowly, beer in hand. Later, we laughed about it.
Still, as dangerous as it is to invite me to any kind of camp, I’m starting to believe that the way you become a dad is the same way that you become a writer or anything else you want to get better at.
You just do it.
If you want to write, you read books on writing, you learn as much as you can about the craft before you try your hand at it. But at some point, you have to sit down at the blank screen with the blinking cursor and you have to write. You make a lot of mistakes at first. You realize that some days your writing will be amazing and something that you want to share with the world.
Other days, your writing will be so terrible that after writing what you thought was good material, you’ll decide later that it can’t see the light of day and you pray that you don’t have a wreck on the way home so you can trash what you’ve written before anyone finds it.
You start out not really knowing what to write about or how to write it, but you keep showing up and you try your best and eventually, you find your way. I think that’s also how you become a dad.
So today I’m at the Dad and Me camp. I’ll avoid doing any fishing, for the safety of others.
I’m clicking on publish and I’m setting out to enjoy the day as a dad with his boy. And if my son stands up in our canoe and tips us over, I’ll do the same thing my dad did. We’ll laugh about it.