There is one way to judge, in the end, whether you’ve done this thing right. It’s not based on how rich your kids get. It’s not whether they make it into Yale, or whether they turn out handsome or beautiful, smart or famous.
In the end, the ultimate test of a father’s worth is, do your kids want to spend time with you? Of course, we can make some exceptions for those rough teenage years, or whether they like being seen with you in front of their friends. What we’re talking about is simply this: does your presence make their lives better or worse? Accordingly, do they want to have you around or not?
In the book My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads by Gary Myers, Tom Brady’s father, Tom Brady Sr, was told about some of his son’s comments about how much he enjoyed being with his dad. His father was visibly taken aback by the remarks, for precisely this reason. They were that yearned-for confirmation that every father desires.
“I think every father relishes time with their sons,” he said, “and you never know if the son relishes time with his father. For me to hear he respects me, as much as I respect him, is the most satisfying feeling that I could ever have. I remember when he was still in high school and I would go in to wake him up in the morning so we could go play golf. It was always the greatest joy for me that he wanted to play golf with me. Years later, he made the comment that, ‘I never wanted to stay out late on Friday night because I wanted to play golf with my dad Saturday morning.’”
This isn’t something that you just throw up your hands and hope for. It doesn’t just happen because your personalities magically align. It’s something you have to work for—you have to create the alignment. You have to build the relationship.
If you don’t, if you can’t—because you’re too domineering, because you can’t bring yourself to say how you feel, because you’re too caught up in your own stuff? That’s on you. Your punishment is that you will be deprived of one of the most special things in the entire world. You will not get the crowded table at the end of your life. You will not get as much time together as you should. And sadly, it will be your fault.