Trying on a new hat

I wear a lot of hats in my life. I’m a husband and father. They’re my two favorite hats. There’s the worker hat, but I have others too.

I’m the family gardener and plumber. With the kids gone, I spend an hour or two each week mowing and taking care of the yard and I’m the one who cleans out the soap scum, hair, and grime from our shower, when it gets backed up.

I used to be the family disciplinarian and protector, but I haven’t had to flex a muscle or give an appropriately-timed scowl — as my growing dad-bod and belly will attest — in a very long time.

I’ve noticed lately that my favorite hat has been family financial and career counselor. Here’s what I mean:

  • My daughter will tell me how she knocked her quarterly performance review out of the ballpark and how her boss wants to talk about her long-term career goals.
  • When I catch up on the phone with my son in the United States Marines, thousands of miles away, he’ll tell me how he was “helping his guys” and some praise that his sergeant threw his way.
  • Finally, my youngest son, getting ready to start his first year of college, will ask me about a class and how that might look on his resume. 

“Hey, dad, did I tell you . . . “

Each will tell me their bit of news out of the blue. I won’t be expecting it. It’s like manna from heaven. it just shows up. They’re not really looking for a lecture or advice. I find that I don’t say much. I’ll shake my head and offer a few oohs and aahs. When it gets to a slow moment, I’ll add in an “oh, that’s interesting!”

I’m grateful to be “let-in” to this side of their life. I try to offer a few options for them to take and even offer some similar examples from my own life, what I was thinking about when I made my decision, but I’ve been careful to not go too far. They’re looking for someone to listen. They’re not looking for me to solve the problem or give them the answer. They’re living their own lives, they’ll come to their own decisions, they just need someone to listen.

A different kind of conversation

I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t have to come to me at all. They’re adults. They’re not minors anymore, they can do whatever they damn-well please. They’re the ones making their own decisions and will have to live with the consequences.

I remember feeling the same way when I was in their situation. Whenever I had something happen at college or work, I was excited. I just needed someone to listen and share in my news. In fact, I appreciate that they’re coming to me at all. I give them some basic guidance, but mostly I encourage them to trust themselves. They’re smart kids, they have a good head on their shoulders, they’ll figure out a solution.

So far, they keep coming back. I’m struck how I thought my fathering hat had run its course, was ready to be thrown in the recycling pile, but I must say, this is pretty cool too. 

8 thoughts on “Trying on a new hat

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  1. I found this interesting: “With discipleship, either you are being directed or you are helping to disciple and direct a new believer. Whereas, a mentor is someone who listens to you. They most likely will not tell you directly what to do but they may help guide you in a Biblical way and listen to you and pray with you.”

    Liked by 1 person

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