Roger Marolt: Life served in an old coffee cup
My kids gave me a coffee cup long ago. The design on the outside has been washed away. Only a baby blue tint is noticeable here and there. At one time it said, “World’s Greatest Dad.” It is one of my prized possessions; it and my wedding ring.
I know kids aren’t the fairest judges of who is the world’s greatest dad. I mean, they love us, almost no matter what and sometimes the worse we are the better they try to see us. You know it happens, and you hope it doesn’t happen to you, but oftentimes when you see a guy go accomplish something extraordinary in this world, his kids become his most ardent supporters, even though you know the big thing took a lot of his time away from those same kids. I say you hope it never happens to you because sometimes, I think, the kids latch onto their dad’s big thing since that’s all they have of him. There’s some thin ice for you to skate across.
I do not love my coffee cup because I think I am the world’s greatest dad. Nope. I love that thing because it gave me something big to shoot for.
Maybe once I thought that I might be able to become the world’s greatest dad. When I first laid eyes on our babies, I felt like anything was possible and the energy of the universe was behind me on anything I would do for them. Heck, I can’t describe that to you, but if you’ve been through it, you know exactly what I mean.
Reality sets in quickly after that and I use the word “exhaustion” interchangeably with “reality” here. The universe is no match for the lack of sleep in the first few months and soon you feel like you can’t do one thing right. The house is a mess. You fall behind at work. You’re not doing much for yourself anymore. You can’t even go to bed when you want.
At that point, you know you can’t possibly be the world’s greatest dad. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, but it does anyway. Then you feel dumb for ever thinking it. Take a baseball player like Mike Trout. He is the best baseball player in the world. … Maybe. The point being that there is only one in three billion who is the best man at anything on the planet and the odds are strongly against you being that guy at anything, much less being the best dad, a thing a lot of men try for. It’s a little disappointing to realize this at first, but not shocking, if you paid any attention at all in middle school math.
The difference between being a baseball player and a dad, though, is that in working to be a great dad you do get credit for simply trying hard; a lot of credit! This is because nobody is really paying attention and no huge award will be handed out and it is not profitable in any traditional sense. Basically, nobody else loses if you win, so it’s not a cutthroat competition by any means. The only people judging you are your wife and kids, and no one else matters. I have found them to err generously on the side of forgiveness at the expense of objectivity, and thank their goodness for that. As weird as it sounds, I think you might get more points for trying and getting questionable results than you would if it all came very naturally and didn’t require any effort to get things perfect.
Everybody loves their children, or darn near everyone, and we have to pray hard for the ones who don’t because there’s not much sadder in this world than that. Yet, I don’t believe loving your kids is enough. You must love them more than any earthly thing — your career, your hobbies, travel, a clean car, whatever. And don’t bother telling them you love them more than all this other stuff, they already know the truth.
I learned most of this by chance. I wouldn’t have said it at the time, but I got lucky when I was severely injured for a year when the kids were young. I couldn’t do anything but sit around and just be with them. The time with them got richer and richer. We haven’t stopped playing since, even though they are all grown up now.
It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I figured out they are completely incredible and you can love them infinitely more than a whole winter of epic powder days. There is no bigger challenge and no bigger reward than raising kids, not even climbing huge mountains or skiing every day or finishing in the top ten of a local mountain bike race or making $1 million.
There you have it. I didn’t think I could write an entire piece about some faded, old coffee cup, but I managed.
Roger Marolt would love another refill, please. Email at email@example.com.
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“How Green Was My Valley” is a beautiful and tragic novel that stands as a poignant metaphor for the way fossil fuels have defined the human relationship with energy.