My abiding hope as a father has always been to provide my children with a happy and interesting childhood -- which won't prove too alarming for their future therapists -- and which leaves them with the ability to think and act for themselves as adults, with large capacities equally for joy, compassion, and laughter at themselves.
I'm pleased to report they both appear to be headed in that direction. I've loved watching them grow, and am grateful for their tolerance as I've stumbled alongside them attempting to keep growing on my own journey -- as a parent AND as a human being.
The following list contains the lessons learned from my stumbles, lessons I'm pleased to present now as...
The Dad Rules
For kids of all ages. Especially my own.
1) Dare to be great. (An easy one to start with... and to get out of the way.)
2) Dare to suck on the way to greatness.
3) Dare to have fun doing things you're sucky at, even if you'll never be great at them. Exhibit A, dad and dancing. Ok, fine. Dad and MANY things!
4) Dare NOT to be embarrassed by me occasionally.
5) Dare to love your friends with all your heart.
6) Dare to let your friends know you love them with all your heart.
7) Dare to say goodbye to old friends who aren't treating you the way you deserve to be treated.
8) Dare to make new friends.
9) Dare to love your family - and to show up for them even when they don't behave.
10) Dare to love your partners, as hard and absolutely as you love your friends and family.
11) Dare to have your heart broken. It'll mend. And grow back fuller than ever. I promise.
12) Dare to love yourself. Even/especially when you're sucking and failing.
13) Dare to find passions -- playing ukulele, reading, dancing, watching sports, making lots of money(!) - that you can love with all your heart.
14) Dare to travel, and visit as many places on this planet as possible.
15) Dare to try new things... except driving drunk, or getting in a car with friends who are drunk. Other than that, try everything at least once. Even swearing, sweetie. And oysters.
16) Dare to ask for help when you need it.
17) Dare to ask for directions when you need them.
18) Dare to listen. And to pause before responding. And sometimes not to respond at all.
19) Dare to be different. I hate to break it to you, but neither of you are like any other kid, or any other human being I've ever known for that matter.
20) Dare to be as happy about that fact as I am.
21) Dare to be uncool. It's so goddamn liberating, and besides, it takes way too much time and energy to be cool!
22) Dare to write poetry that comes from your heart... and doesn't always rhyme. (Advice I plan on following in your next b'day poems. Consider yourselves warned.)
23) Dare to remember that your feelings don't define you; your choices and actions do.
24) Dare to slow down. Your work, your friendships, your heart and your stomach will all benefit from your slower, fuller, NON-rushed attention.
25) Dare to cry when you're sad.
26) Dare to cry hard when necessary.
27) Dare to laugh long and loud at all other times.
28) Dare to be wrong. And to admit it when you are. (Especially when you're married!)
29) Dare to be right - and not make others feel wrong, even when they are. (That'll make it easier for them to admit you're right.)
30) Dare to be kind. The world needs more kindness, and you are two of the kindest people I know. Don't keep it to yourselves!
31) Dare to keep learning and growing until the day you die. Even then, don't stop if possible.
32) Dare to be bored.
33) Dare to put your phones down when you're bored and really dig your boredom.
34) Dare to throw out these rules and make your own.
35) Dare to love. Everything and everyone. Always.
36) I dare you.