Fatherhood: The Road Taken


After being the object of celebration in my household on Father’s Day yesterday, I’ve realized something about fatherhood: I can’t recommend it.

Sure, it’s worked out for me. I happen to have won the kid lottery. I’ve got two adult children in their twenties who are thoughtful, loving, and kind. Who seem to appreciate me as much as I appreciate them. Who have, from the moment they were born, completely altered the trajectory of my life, bestowing upon it a richer, deeper meaning and a greater purpose, stretching the boundaries of my abilities and emotions, and making me a more complete person.

It’s no easy task, this fathering business. It’s littered with failures. People talk about the sacrifices you have to make as a parent, but I never thought of anything I did as a father to be a sacrifice. For me, it was about accepting and fulfilling a lifelong responsibility I chose to take on. What some call sacrifices, I call “roads not taken.”

If you’re not a parent, you have a lot more flexibility about where you place the emphasis in your life. If you’re ambitious and career-oriented, work can be your priority. Maybe you love to travel or spend your money on boats or fancy cars or second homes. You want to put your energy into writing poems, or creating art, or making music. You want to move every two years to a different exotic location. You believe the world is facing an environmental or nuclear catastrophe, or some other awful fate–and you can’t face the idea of bringing children into such an existence. Or you just don’t want kids.

These are all fine life choices—but I didn’t choose any of those roads. I became a father instead and that became my priority. I’ve stumbled at times over my mistakes. I said the wrong thing to my kids. I made the wrong decisions or offered lame tidbits of wisdom or gave unwanted advice. I got angry and frustrated. I got bored. But I never once questioned the road I was on, and I always tried to learn and get better as a dad.

As I sat with my family and opened gifts and heard my kids sing my praises, I reflected on the arc of my role as a father and the path my kids traveled to become the exceptional people they are today. I understood how fortunate, how fulfilled I am.

And yet I can’t universally recommend fatherhood to any young man. You have to really commit to traveling that road, and accept there will be many roads not taken.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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