I’m a lousy Dad. At least it feels that way sometimes, the feeling you get that you didn’t say enough or share enough or that you put on a mask and didn’t reveal your inner self to your children, that they never really “found you out.” And maybe that’s best, because as my wife often says, “Just once I’d like to get inside your head for a day and see what it’s like…or maybe not, I might not recover.”
And so just like any Dad, I have regrets. I worked too much, played too much golf, didn’t laugh enough, cry enough, teach enough…and then I realize that maybe the best thing my kids can know about me is that I’m broken, I’m a jar of clay, brittle and easily shattered, but sometimes capable of holding vast amounts of beautiful refreshing drink. I think they’ll get that, because they’ve experienced the same human condition of loneliness coupled with euphoria, brokenness mingling with beauty, the spiritual world breaking in on the physical and revealing itself as the real one, the happy one, the way to perfection that trumps all the masks that we wear.
I used to read to my kids, not as much as I should have, but I read to them some. So when I read Robert Bruce’s blog, “The Time Robin Williams Read Narnia to His Daughter,” it struck me as so true. That our children just want us to be Mom or Dad, not some made up character with lot’s of money and jokes, a walking Father Knows Best.
Here is an excerpt from Robert Bruce’s blog, 101 books, which talks about Robin Williams reading Narnia to his daughter Zelda.
“I would read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids. I was once reading to Zelda, and she said ‘Don’t do any voices. Just read it as yourself.’ So I did, I just read it straight, and she said ‘That’s better.’”
Robin Williams was famous for his voices—and the frenzy at which he shifted in and out of character. To have Robin Williams as your father—it would be like having a Monet, a Hemingway, a Jordan.
But, still, he’s your father. He’s not “Robin Williams” as we know him. He’s just dad.
Revealing truth to our kids is sometimes as easy as getting out of the way and being real. Of letting other spirits speak for us what we cannot say well. Wisdom, beauty, relationships, truth are the things we should pass along to our kids. Yes, they remember the funny faces, our jokes, our quirks…but they long for meaning that we often miss because we wear masks of adult condescension, always trying to teach more than we need to teach, or hide what we don’t need to hide. We just need to live and speak and work and play and read…in our own voice, without the mask. Just be real, that’s all my kids ever wanted or any kid wants really, just read to me about life Dad, in your own voice. That’s better.
Here’s the entire piece written by Mr. Bruce if you’d like to read it.