You might not think of Tom Hanks as a father, but he is one. He had four kids, two from his first marriage, Colin and Elizabeth, and two from his second, Chet and Truman. You might not think of Tom Hanks as someone who messes up, or someone who would struggle at something as wholesome as being a dad, but again, you’d be wrong. A recent New York Times profile spent some time talking with Hanks about fatherhood, and the reality of what it was like to have his first two kids while he was still an up and coming actor. Colin and Elizabeth were growing up while their father was still trying to get parts, trying to make a living and pay the rent, as Hanks puts it. But by the time Chet and Truman were born, he was long past that. They grew up with a dad who was much more secure, who didn’t have to audition anymore, who was famous and beloved.
Does he feel guilty about some of those mistakes? Absolutely. How has it affected his parenting style? It’s made him much more understanding, much more patient, and ultimately, much more responsible. As he explained:
It isn’t easy being a parent, not for any of us. Somewhere along the line, I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say I love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do? You offer up that to them. I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe. That’s it. Offer that up and then just love them.
Beautiful, yeah? And humanizing too? Look, if you think you’re not going to mess up as a Dad, you’re in for a rude surprise. If you think the struggles you’re going through in your career, in your marriage, in your life are not going to affect your kids, you’re being naive. But you can’t whip yourself about that. All you can do is try to learn from your failings and keep going. You can keep showing up and asking, “What do you need me to do?” You can offer that. You can love them.
And if you keep doing it, you’ll get some of the flashes of a happy family that Tom Hanks talks about in the article, the kind that make life worth living.