A Son Becoming A Father: Lessons From Dad
On Father's Day, the author, expecting to become a father for the first time this fall, reflects on growing up with his dad.
Disclaimer: Before reading below, you must know that I confess to being a "Mama's Boy." However, as we near Father's Day, I'd like to recognize my dad for being an incredible part of my life.
My father, Ken Hadfield Jr., was a decently well-known saloon owner (the old Jordan’s Place on Fait Avenue) and community volunteer during most of my upbringing. He was always on the go, and most of the time I tagged along.
Owning a bar since I was 3 years old, my father was able to relay a lot of life lessons from his experience at work. He’d take me every Sunday morning to visit my maternal grandfather Ike, and my uncle Victor, who worked mornings at the bar.
I remember these mornings vividly now, but at the time pondered why I was being awakened so early. I now know that my father wanted to make sure I saw my grandfather every Sunday, as we both enjoyed it.
From the bar, my father taught me to sympathize with folks from all backgrounds and varied paths. My dad would always say, “You never know what that person has just been through, so be kind.”
My dad told me never to drink whiskey, as “whiskey turns people ugly.” He also taught me the important lesson of knowing when enough was enough, and that usually ended up with someone getting tossed out of the bar.
As I got older, my father took time to coach, or at least volunteer with, practically every sports team I played for. In the mid-1990s, my father and my best friend’s father took over the Dundalk Little Loop Baseball Program. They ran this program until we aged out of the recreation council, and I will forever be grateful.
During those years, I didn’t have time to get into trouble because I was perpetually on the ball field with my friends. My father would pack nine players into his Lumina van (we’d remove the seats and practically lay on top of one another) and we’d drive all over Maryland playing baseball every day of the summer. That lasted from the age of 8 until I was 16.
Academically, my father would sit down and discuss every report card with me. I was never punished for bad grades, but I was always asked, “How hard are you working?” My father stressed hard work and persistence, not natural ability or achievement.
In my run for elected office, many folks thought my father was the one running, as he was just as passionate and present on the campaign trail as I was. I could not have asked for a more committed and energetic supporter.
Dad has always been there. I even remember him hiding behind trees as I walked home from Dundalk Elementary, to make sure I got home okay while still affording me my independence. Even today, we have a unique relationship; I speak to both of my parents daily.
My first child, a son, will be entering the world sometime this October. I'm excited to meet him and to share my life and knowledge of the world with him over the upcoming years.
During the 2010 political campaign, many folks asked what my life goals were. To me, it was a simple question to answer.
I'd always reply that I wanted to be a great husband and father and that I wanted to coach my kids' sports teams.
There is no doubt I feel this way because my father coached me. Every son strives to be better than his father before him, and my goal is surely to accomplish the same.
My father never pushed me outside of my comfort zone or forced me into the spotlight, but he encouraged it and made it well known he would be right behind me no matter what the outcome. I hope to do the same for my child, providing him with unlimited opportunities and possibilities, with him knowing that I will always be there if he needs me.
My father has been ever present in my life, sharing the ups and downs, and entering the trenches with me when I needed him. He's unique, shameless, hilarious, loud and loyal.
My only wish is that my future children will get to grow up knowing and learning from my father and mother, as my paternal grandparents both passed away when I was a year old. Knowing my father, with his persistence and relentlessness, he'll expire at 135. I know that as excited as I am to be called "Dad," my father is excited for his transformation into "Pop-O."
So, Dad, on this Father's Day: Thanks for being the dad that this soon-to-be dad aspires to be.