I love being a Dad.
Chatting with my daughter in the morning as we wait for her bus to arrive. Texting with her throughout the day about her drama at high school. Kissing her good night when she heads off to bed. Sending her a final “good night sweetie” text after she turns off her bedroom lights. Those are the things that I absolutely love doing. Honestly, I’m not sure if I do a very good job at being a Dad. I know I’ve made far more than my fair share of mistakes along the way. But I do love the moments we have together. In the end, I think she has had to forgive my many Dad faults than I have ever had to forgive her mistakes.
I know that the reason I love being a Dad to my daughter is because I loved being a son to my mother. I had the best Mom. We played together constantly in the same way that I do with my daughter. When I was in middle school, she and I had a little cat-and-mouse game we would play. As she arrived home from work, I would hide somewhere in the house and she’d try to find me. As soon as she would open the closet door or look under the bed where I was hiding, I’d jump out and yell “Boo!” at her. She’d jump through the roof. The worst of these times was when I stayed hidden in the closet and after she got comfortable at the dining room table, reading the afternoon paper, I crawled under the table and suddenly grabbed her ankles. She screamed louder than I think she ever did! But, right afterwards, we both were laughing equally hard. I think that closeness made it easier for both of us as I injected her with the drugs she took daily as she battled breast cancer. Any time I pressed the plunger a bit too hard, her arm would seize up and I’d gasp from seeing her hurt. But, she’d just pat my arm and tell me, “Don’t worry. Let’s just try again.”
My headline for this Cup of Tea is “on being a Dad, on being a teacher.” So what do these stories have anything to do with being a teacher? Honestly, everything. I’ve written previously and have said in my classes many times that I’m passionate about teaching. I love the exchange of ideas and guiding students through these new perspectives and ways of thinking. It is so reward for me to see a young man or young woman grow intellectually. In the end, it brings me great joy to see a student have the magical “ah ah” moment – be it all at once or over time – and become a young professional that will set them on a road to a wonderful career. Some get there with greater ease while others will fight that message for much longer. And, I see this difference in the eyes of my students nearly every day.
This guiding, watching, urging, pushing that I do in the classroom comes from the same passion of being a Dad. Whether it is guiding my daughter to pick the right classes now that will set her up well for her intended career in marine biology or challenging all of my students – in class, in my office, in the hallway and via my Cups of Tea – to not be complacent about their investments in themselves – the passion comes from the same place in me. And, I know this is not unique about me at all. I know nearly every teacher, instructor, professor has the same desire though it may have come from a different set of experiences.
I share this personal story and journey as I want students – or at least hope – that you will listen carefully to what I, to what my colleagues in the faculty and in the Center try to share with you about becoming a professional. My daughter certainly thinks, on occasion, that I’m being a nag about reading some random website about ocean conservation because it could help her later on in a class but I only do that out of this genuine desire to see her grow. That is where all of us come from when we nag and push you too.
So, when I push, just know it is really my Mom saying “don’t worry. Let’s just try again.”