From the beginning of time there have been fathers with sons. Adam, as in Adam and Eve, got things started and from that beginning we have had an endless flow of fathers and sons.
Inherent in many father and son relationships are the typical growing pains that each experiences as they navigate their way through to adulthood. It has been my experience that although we are all children of a loving and compassionate Father in Heaven, both fathers and their sons came to this earth without an operating manual. This on the job training wasn’t always easy but it was effective.
I believe the best way to learn anything is to be a hands-on learner. This is true of repairing automobiles, building a shed, weeding a garden and raising children.
There are numerous scenarios in life when those without children try to tell those who do have children how to raise them. I was one of those dads who thought I had it all figured out, until I had children of my own. Only then does one realize that all the assumptions you made when you were judging others on how to raise a child were completely wrong.
In my lifetime the best ‘how too’ manual has always been the example of others. Seeing other dads in action is always a great learning experience, regardless of whether they are doing it the right way or not. In truth, there are hundreds of equally wonderful ways to raise our sons because every son reacts differently to the same inputs. This was certainly true of the family I was raised in.
There are six boys in the Lenkersdorfer family with me being the third of six. I can say with confidence that each of us was our own person, having different interactions with our dad based mostly on our attitudes and involvement.
My father was at somewhat of a disadvantage when it came to following the example of his own father because his dad passed away when he was just six-years-old. On the other end of his family was my father’s only brother, who was at least 15 years his senior. This meant that by the time my dad was old enough to lean from his older brother’s example, the brother had gone off to college. This limited the number of male influences in his life, at least up to the point where he got involved with scouting. It was through the scouting program that my father blossomed.
Fast forward to my band of brothers and you would see six different paths traveled. Our oldest brother, John, had it the toughest because he was the practice dummy. No matter what he did, it wasn’t how our father would have done it. Being the oldest, John became the heir apparent to the family business, a role he was willing and able to take on. Having to work so closely together caused a lot of heartburn for both of them.
The next two boys were my brother Alan and I. We weren’t given much leeway to begin with but pushed the envelope over time and somehow survived. Our father took us camping to Bear Lake, where we camped right on the beach. He helped us learn how to set up our surplus army tent by kicking back in his Volkswagen camper van while we struggled with the heavy canvas, tent poles and what seemed like billions of mosquitoes.
Through our teenage years my brother, Alan, who loved woodworking, became dad’s favorite while at just a year younger, I struggled with my relationship with my dad. Gratefully, I was able to reconcile my differences with my father about five years before his untimely death at just 68-years-old.
My relationship with my two sons paralleled the one my brother Alan and I had with our father. My oldest son was so much like I was when I was that age that it was scary. We would bump heads on occasion and Aaron loved to push my buttons. I had a taste of my own medicine for a few of his teenage years but I survived as did he. Like the relationship I had with my own father, I finally figured out what I needed to do to be a good dad.
My youngest son, John, was easy to raise for nearly every day he lived in our home. He had a way of injecting humor into a situation that helped me be a better dad. We shared many hobbies and to this day enjoy being in each other’s company.
Both sons are now fathers and it delights me to see how they are doing as parents. This modern life full of distractions is so much harder for fathers and sons to get along and see eye to eye. I can honestly say I am very proud of the job they are doing with their own little families. As far as I am concerned, all the credit goes back to all the dads that came before me who helped me become a better father.
I can truly say it is way more fun to be a grandpa than it ever was to be a dad.