Family

This Father's Day, ask not what your children can do for you

He was a hot shot, Porsche-driving, Boston attorney with a craving for cocaine so consuming that he would do lines of blow in the courthouse men’s room between appearances.

It took some time, but eventually his addiction stole everything—the law practice, the Porsche, the money, and ultimately his wife and daughters.

Homeless and friendless, he spent a New England winter under the floorboards of an abandoned house, scrounging food and alcohol, essentially waiting to die.

And then somehow he found his way to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

And ever since, he’s been sober as a judge.

Sobriety is like playing a country song in reverse—you get your life back, you get your money back, you get your car back, and eventually, you get your family back, as well.

If you’re sober, Father’s Day isn’t about Dad. It’s about Dad’s relationships with his children.

Regaining the trust of his wife and daughters took the longest.

Not long after he turned a year sober, his wife invited him to attend a field hockey game in which his oldest daughter, now 12, was participating.

He was dead broke, and the same guy who used to wear Brioni suits now insulated his legs with newspaper to keep out the cold.

No more Porsche.

He took the bus.

When he got to the field, there were actually four field hockey games going on, and since he hadn’t seen his daughter in four years, he didn’t even know which game was hers.

Finally he spotted his wife, so he stood on the opposite sideline and watched the game, trying to figure out which one of the blonde haired, ponytailed young women was his.

Suddenly, a girl jumped into his arms.

It was his daughter.

She didn’t care about the Porsche or the suits, or anything else.

All she wanted was her dad back, and thanks to AA, she had what she wanted.

I tell this story because Father’s Day, like pretty much every American holiday, has devolved into a materialistic “what’s in it for me” nothing burger.

And yet, if you’re sober, Father’s Day isn’t about Dad.

It’s about Dad’s relationships with his children.

It’s not about breakfast in bed, or a new tie, or a pass for the day from mowing the lawn.

For sober men, Father’s Day is the perfect moment to assess just how well we are doing.

If you’re a sober father of daughters, your primary responsibility to your daughter is to set her up for the next man.

Girls subconsciously construct a template in their heads for the way they expect to be treated, based on how their fathers treated them.

If you treat your daughter wonderfully, that’s what she’ll expect from her beaux.

If you are emotionally distant and unavailable, that’s what will attract her, and a hard road awaits.

If you’re a father to boys, they are watching you for clues as to what manhood looks like.

As the expression goes, what you do speaks so loudly I can hardly hear a word you’re saying.

Master motivator Earl Nightingale told the story of an alcoholic father who had two sons.

One became a drunk, like his dad.

“With a father like that,” he explained, “what did you expect me to do ?”

The other son worked hard in school, got a good job, and built a successful career and family, never touching alcohol.

“With a father like that,” he explained, “what did you expect me to do?”

So this Father’s Day, don’t sit up in bed waiting for scrambled eggs and orange juice.

Instead, take a moment to ask yourself how you’re doing as a Dad.

Are you preparing your daughter to be loved…or neglected?

Are you modeling for your son the right values, or are you demonstrating through your actions that maturity is optional?

If you’re doing things the right way, every day is Father’s Day.

So you shouldn’t need a reward for doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

On the other hand, if your kids want to make you breakfast in bed, and let you play golf while they do chores and mow the lawn, enjoy.

Dad, you’ve earned it.

Michael Graubart is the author of the newly published bestseller, Sober Dad: The Manual for Perfectly Imperfect Parenting, published by Hazelden.