My two youngest sons, aged four and eight, hid some notes for me under the decorative challah cover Friday night. As I went to make the ceremonial blessing over the challah, in front of a dozen guests, five letters slipped out onto the table. My little angels were beaming at me, excited that I would be reading these notes at that moment perched between the benediction over the wine, and the bread. At that awkward moment, between washing our hands, and blessing over the bread which mark the start of the traditional Sabbath dinner, Fatherâ€™s day arrived.
The notes, written in crayon on paper, were expressions of love, even claiming that I might in fact be the â€œGreatest Dad in the World.â€
â€œReally?â€ I think to myself, â€œwhat have I done lately to deserve that kind of accolade and recognition?â€ As if there were such a metric to be measured, some kind of nationwide American Dad competition.
I start running through things I did recently. Yes, I fixed the broken window that had been shattered the previous weekend when a stray fly-ball smashed through the second floor bedroom window.
I bought a big balloon that said â€œCONGRATS!â€ for the kids when they finished the school year. (Really that balloon was for my wife, who survived another year of homework.)
â€œWhat have I done to deserve any recognition of my contribution to Fatherhood,â€ I contemplated, â€Beyond ensuring that they are clothed, fed, safe from harm, consoled, encouraged, nurtured andâ€¦â€
And then it hit me this morning. â€œ…Iâ€™m proud to be your Dad.â€
Yes, I am proud of you when you mess up, and when you hit a home run. Iâ€™m proud of you when you smile at the frozen yogurt machine, as the delicious dessert starts oozing its way from the machine, and when you are inconsolable after the Lego ship was smashed into little pieces when I stepped on it on my way out of their bedroom.
Iâ€™m proud of you when you refuse to be cowed into submission by irate adults who take out their own parenting issues on you, and then canâ€™t be grown-up enough to apologize.
Iâ€™m proud of you when they show self-restraint as you pass by candies and delights that donâ€™t bear a kosher symbol, and I am proud of you when you canâ€™t stop pleading with me for what you say you need most in life â€” another one of those $7 plastic toys made China that transform from a ball to monster and back.
Kids, Iâ€™m proud to be your dad, and always will be. But I wonder, what have I done to deserve your pride in me?
That you continue to be proud of me â€”
with me losing my temper,
working too hard,
missing graduation from Kindergarten,
having to make time for pastoral counselling at all hours of the day,
marking you as the rabbiâ€™s kids without your consent,
imploring you to not punch one another,
to be nicer to your mom,
making you brush your teeth,
being allergic to dogs, cats, and other furry pets,
withholding from you the Disney Channel, cheeseburgers, Heelys, motorized scooters, BB guns and other potentially lethal influencesâ€”
is the greatest gift in the world that I could ever have.
Kids, thank you for continuing to believe in me, as much as I believe in you.
Happy Fatherâ€™s Day,
Yonah Bookstein is a proud father of four. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiYonah.