07/31/2012 06:09 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

Why I Don't Want to Be Cliff Huxtable

I stopped worrying about being a picture-perfect dad a few years ago. And I actually think it's helped me do a better job with this parenting gig.

As a young dad, I lived with a vision in my head about what a father should be like. Act like. React like. In some ways, I was pretty much the living, breathing version of the dad I imagined I should be -- influenced by an assortment of things including my own life experiences, stereotypes and my favorite television dad: Bill Cosby in his beloved role as Cliff Huxtable.

In truth, I was a caricature of what I thought I should be. Don't get me wrong, I was a good dad. But I realize now how off I was in approaching my role.

You see, a funny thing happened along my journey of dad-dom. Call it what you like. Family crisis. Emotional struggles. A dose of cancer. A couple family tragedies. In truth, what you should call it is "life." Real, family life. And what I learned through it all was the most valuable lesson of parenting I've ever received.

I learned the importance of simply being the parent my children need me to be. Not the situation comedy dad. Or mom. But the parent. The adult. The protector. The teacher. The safety zone. The listener. The encourager. The beacon of light. And I learned the importance of being diligent in taking cues from my kids. 24/7.

I guess I've come to understand that being a parent is all about investing in a relationship with this person who -- candidly -- didn't chose me. And I've come to realize that my kids never expect perfection or Hollywood parenting. What they want, need and deserve is something only I can give them.

Me. And my commitment to them that I'm there for them physically and emotionally whenever they need me.

No script. This relationship's all about ad-libbing from the heart.

And when I do that, even Cliff Huxtable should stand up and take notes.


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