“What’s the key to being a great dad?”Jay asks at the beginning of the second episode of the show Modern Family.
“Giving them the freedom to be whatever they want to be,” Cam answers. His husband Mitchell just adds, “Patience.” Phil, the fun one, explains that it’s about being their buddy, “Still thinking,” Jay says, as the conversation comes back around to him.
For the rest of the episode, Jay’s storyline revolves around helping his stepson Manny set up a fan in his bedroom. As Jay struggles, Manny looks for any chance to tell Jay about how cool and impressive his real dad is. Jay knows the truth: his real dad is a flake. But he holds his tongue. After Jay shocks himself and drops one of the fan blades on Manny, Manny storms outside, sits on the curb, and waits for his real dad to pick him up for their trip to Disneyland.
Jay has his own reasons to look forward to the trip. As soon as Manny’s gone, he and his wife Gloria are heading on their own trip to wine country. But then Manny’s father calls and tells Jay he’s on a roll at the craps table. The Disneyland trip, like so many of their outings over the years, isn’t going to happen. Jay goes out and sits next to Manny on the curb. As he tells Manny the bad news, the limo that was supposed to take Jay and Gloria to wine country pulls up. “Look what [your dad] sent,” Jay says. “He wanted me and your mom to take you to Disneyland.” Manny’s beside himself, “I told you he was an awesome dad.”
It cuts to Jay by himself,
Ok, the key to being a good dad. Look, sometimes things work out just the way you want. Sometimes they don’t. You gotta hang in there. Because when all is said and done, 90% of being a dad is just showing up.
Remember this today. Remember it always. Your job is to show up. Special trips? Sure, they’re great. Being their buddy? Patience? Giving them freedom? All important. But what matters most is that you’re there. Because so many of the memories that kids carry with them into adulthood are actually the little moments in between the big events, and what they often remember most of all about those moments is who was there with them.
You show up or you don’t. You hang in there or you don’t. You’re their parent or you’re not. It’s that simple.