The Big LeadThe Big Lead

Fatherhood is Letting Others Play Through

My wife hosted a dinner party on Thursday and it was strongly suggested that myself, our four-year-old, and rambunctious dog find somewhere else to burn off the excess energy and commotion that seems omnipresent. There was but one good option for escape: my parents’ house on the other side of town.

My mom had plans, she said, and wouldn’t be there. But she relayed a message from dad. Come on over.

The night came and the four of us spent the evening together in remarkably unremarkable fashion. Sandwiches were made, a box of toys unloaded onto the floor, all of us took turns reminding the dog she was not allowed on the couch.

There was nothing really special to differentiate this night from the thousands upon thousands I’ve spent with my dad. The only deviation from the norm was the choice of entertainment.

I arrived first to the house and took the key from its hiding place, the same place it’s always been. Its physical location and symbolism have remained unchanged. It’s always been there for me, and I know it will always be there for me, come what may.

Having first dibs on the remote meant putting the U.S. Open on television. Golf is a relatively new muse for me as dictated by the rules governing Basic Dad evolution. Something about the pace of the game makes more sense at 35 years-old than it did at 18. The inevitable weekend snooze to the soundtrack of soft commentary is a siren song.

My dad, lover of most sports, has never had much time for golf. I can’t even remember seeing him watch a second of it growing up. Not out of animus, or anything, but because he was a baseball guy. And more importantly, because he was pretty busy helping raise three children. And running his own business. And doing the millions of unseen things parents do that kids don’t understand until decades later.

This was not his first choice of entertainment. But there he sat, gradually becoming more engrossed with the action. He asked questions about the rules and players. He marveled at excellent shots, like Rory Sabbatini’s hole-in-one. He empathized with Jordan Spieth, who he said couldn’t buy a break.

On the line graph of our lives together, Thursday wasn’t a peak or a valley. It’s just another data point in a relationship that’s always trended above the mean, which I feel infinitely thankful for.  My dad deserves a lion’s share of the credit for that and his admirable characteristics could buoy the word count of this post greatly.

One stands out.

My dad, like most good dads, has been entirely selfless when it comes to raising his kids. In the big ways and important ways. And also in the minor ones. Watching golf for a few hours and getting into it is almost trivial, but it’s in line with what he’s done his entire life. He puts his wants, desires, and preferences in the back seat and goes along for the ride, letting his children have the wheel.

Ask most parents what their most valuable resources is and they’ll say time. I can’t even begin to comprehend how many hours of my dad’s life have been devoted to providing for us, so we could have all that we need. More than that, he’s always been willing to put in the time so we could have what we want.

Even when that’s entirely small, like watching golf on television instead of an old Western, or UFC fight, or anything else that I know, deep down, he’d have been more interested in.

Far be it for me to wax poetically about fatherhood. I’m relatively new at it. But I think — think — I understand part of why my dad has done, and continues to do this.

The dirty little secret is that it’s not what you do, but who you do it with. It didn’t matter what three generations of Kosters were watching on Thursday night. It mattered that we were spending time together. The more well-kept secret is that all the time that feels damn good to let your kid budget your time and dictate your schedule.

There is great joy in letting kids play through. This happens in myriad ways both big and small each and every single day, all over the world. Fatherhood is playing nine instead of 18, or even settling for five before dusk. And it’s a hell of a game.

I am forever proud to have learned it from one of the best.