When we think teacher, we think classroom. When we think leader, we think the corner office or the lectern or a general in front of their troops. But the truth is that a teacher can do their job anywhere and in many forms, just as a leader can.
Plutarch would say of Socrates that he “did not set up desks for his students, sit in a teacher’s chair, or reserve a prearranged time for lecturing and walking with his pupils. No, he practiced philosophy while joking around (when the chance arose) and drinking and serving on military campaigns and hanging around the marketplace with some of his students, and finally, even while under arrest and drinking the hemlock. He was the first to demonstrate that our lives are open to philosophy at all times and in every aspect, while experiencing every emotion, and in each and every activity.”
As with teaching and with leadership and with philosophy, so too with parenting. You can be a dad anywhere. It’s not just on fishing trips or at family dinners. It’s not just about carrying them around in a baby bjorn or going to back-to-school night. It’s not about punishments or incentives, or rules or life lessons, though of course it’s also about all these things too.
Remember what we’ve talked about with quality time vs. garbage time? It may just be that the most impact you’ll have as a dad will come while joking around, it may come on a walk, it may come with how you do your job (and show them your work), it may come on a family vacation or it may come while you’re watching TV and make some passing comment that lands in exactly the right way. It may come—god forbid—on your deathbed, as you depart from this life with courage and compassion, showing them that they don’t need to be afraid, that you love them and that they’ll be okay without you.
Being a Dad is not some official thing. It’s not sitting on high, doling out pronouncements and demanding obedience. It’s something you do anywhere and everywhere, every minute of every day in the same way that Socrates taught—by example, by getting down to their level, by being open, and by adapting to the situation at hand.