Looking back on this year, preparing for the next

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(Illustration: Richard Harrington)

FATHERHOOD has been tough for me in 2014, because there have been moments this year in which it's been impossible to laugh.

There was the moment when I had to explain to my 10-year-old son that I couldn't buy him the Airsoft pistol he'd seen online, because someone could mistake it for a real gun and tragedy might ensue. I had no idea at the time that 12-year-old Tamir Rice would face that very scenario in Cleveland, and police would shoot him to death at a playground.

There were moments when I had to talk to my children about the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and the history of violence against people of color that precipitated them.

But then there were other moments, like the time I tried to have a serious talk with my 13-year-old daughter, Eve, about public nudity after R&B star Rihanna wore virtually nothing to the Council of Fashion Designers of America's gala.

"Rihanna wore a see-through dress," I said as I drove Eve to school. "There was a lot of controversy about it. Some people think it was OK for her to do that, but I just wanted you to know that your body is precious, and, you know, you shouldn't . . . "

"You don't want me naked in the street. Is that what you're telling me, Dad?"

"Well, yeah . . . "

"I wouldn't do that."

I smile when I think of that moment, because it told me that no matter what my children find on the Internet, or see on television, or hear on the radio, my wife and I are still their greatest guides. Even when we think they aren't watching, they see us, and sometimes we don't have to say what we think, or articulate what we believe, or admonish them against future mistakes.

That's because our lives tell our children all they need to know about what we think, and what we believe, and about the values we are trying to pass down to them.

Perhaps that's why, as I look back at the last year and forward into the next, I don't want to make resolutions that are meant to be broken. I'd much rather commit to living a life that is meant to be observed.

In 2015, I want my children to see my mistakes and avoid them, and see my triumphs and share them. But more than that, I want them to see the sacrifice it takes to win each victory. I want them to know what it means to excel.

I know I won't be perfect in this New Year, and I don't plan to pressure myself to do so. I do, however, know that I will still be a father, and that beyond the laughter and joy, I will have the responsibility of living my values in front of my children.

That's the most difficult part of a parent's job - living the things we say. In moments when we fail to do so, we can see our own hypocrisy clearly, and our children can see it, too.

But if we are real with ourselves and genuine with our children, we can admit our missteps. We can impart wisdom even through our struggles. We can show our children how to get to the other side.

And, every once in a while, when we do things in the way we told our children that they should be done, we can rest on the fact that we were the perfect example.

More often, however, a parent is a child's imperfect guide through the joys and difficulties of life. I learned that this year, and I'm OK with it, because it puts the coming year into perspective for me. It lets me know the goals I should try to reach.

That's why my parental wish for 2015 has nothing to do with being a perfect father. I'd much rather spend the New Year trying to parent with perfect love.

 


Solomon Jones, whose column appears Tuesdays, is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM). More at Solomonjones.com.