One of the secrets of parenting is that it's often a very lonely sport. Especially for dads. Our children expect us to be the Answer Man, Mr. Fix It, the Know-it-All. And the truth is we often expect this of ourselves. Maybe our dads played this role for us. Maybe we interpreted their silence, or awkwardness, or distance to be authority. Maybe they had skills -- changing the oil, building the tree-house, serving their country -- that we never had, or never utilized.
But for whatever reason, dads today like to think we have the answers, when often we don't.
Two years ago this week I stumbled into a way to end this isolation. I reached out to six men from all parts of my life and asked them to be present in the lives of my three-year-old twin daughters. And I called this group, "The Council of Dads."
I formed this group for emotional reasons. I was facing a life-threatening illness. But even before my illness passed, I realized the Council of Dads was giving me something that I didn't know I needed.
It was giving me an inner circle. It was welcoming my friends into the most precious thing in my life -- the lives of my children. It was making me feel part of a group.
Fathering was no longer a solo sport. It was a team sport.
Along the way, I asked each dad for one piece of wisdom he would share with my girls.
Their answers surprised, and moved me. They made me a better father.
And they inspired me to write the book, The Council of Dads, which gathers the life lessons from my these dads, along with some from my dad, and various father figures in my life.
Today, when one my daughters asks me a question I don't know the answer to, or gives me that look that says, "Can you make it better?" I no longer feel alone. Or scared.
I turn to my Council.
Here, with a little help from these men, are 10 Lessons for My Daughters from The Council of Dads.
1. Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist - A tourist takes the easy road. A traveler seeks out the challenging path. A tourist stays on the bus. A traveler jumps in the mud.
2. Always Pack Your Flip-Flops - In college, a friend and I backpacked across Asia and got kicked out of the great hotels because he refused to wear anything but tank tops and flip-flops. Twenty years later, though he wears a suit during the day, he still wears flip-flops whenever he can. We would still get kicked out of those hotels. Not surprisingly, he's my most loyal friend. Whatever you do, be true to yourself. Wherever you go, always pack your flip-flops.
3. Don't Give in To the Wall- Dream big. And when you encounter a wall, find a way to get over it, around it, or under it. Whatever you do, don't succumb to it. Don't give into the wall.
4. Tend Your Tadpoles - When I was a boy I caught tadpoles with a friend. Like those tadpoles, we grew legs and hopped off into the world. I had little in common with that friend. Later, when I needed help, my friend was suddenly back. Tend your tadpoles. You never know when you might need a pal.
5. Live the Questions - Have patience with the unknown. No matter where you find yourself, if you ask questions, you'll find your way. Don't only seek the answers. Try to love the questions. And the point is to love everything you do. Live the questions.
6. Harvest Miracles - Life is full of everyday miracles. Sometimes it just takes a bad situation to help appreciate them. Even when it's cloudy, keep looking for the rainbow.
7. Use Your Words - When you were toddlers, we begged you, "Use your words." Yet sometimes we forgot to take our own advice. Even when you're older, don't hide behind silence. When you face a problem, talk it through.
8. Always Learn to Juggle on the Side of a Hill - When I was 12, I learned to juggle on the side of a gravel hill with oranges. Every time I dropped an orange it would hit the ground, pulpify, and roll to the bottom of the incline. It was fool's errand. But it worked! If you're going to try something, try it. Don't half commit.
9. Take a Walk with a Turtle - In Paris, centuries ago, a new type of pedestrian appeared. He was called a flaneur, one who strolled the arcades. Flaneurs liked to take turtles for walks and let the reptile set the pace. It's a perfect ode to slow-moving. Don't be in a hurry. Behold the world in pause.
10. Hug the Monster - Pilots learn that when they face a life-defining challenging, they should not run from their fear. They should embrace it. Hug the monster. Wrestle your fear into submission. Redirect it into a source of resilience and purpose.
Take trips, girls. Take chances. Take off.
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