Newsflash, dads are always going to be dads. Just ask Jordan Spieth.
Jordan Spieth, 27, is one of the more popular young professional golfers on the PGA Tour. A three-time Majors Champion, and winner of 14 professional tournaments, Spieth is known as one of the nicest guys to play the game. Mothers want to adopt him, young women want to marry him, and men just wished they could play like him.
At the 2020 ZoZo Championship this year, Spieth had to ask his father to step in and caddy for him since his regular looper, Michael Greller, was away due to a death in his family. But sometimes, a dad can’t help being a dad even on a golf course, and even if his son is a Major Champion. It seems that on Day 1 of the tournament, Spieth’s father committed the cardinal sin of caddying. As Jordan stepped up to his tee shot on the 13th hole, his father reminded his son, “Just don’t overdo it.” For you non-golfers out there, a caddy is supposed to be supportive, encouraging and, consciously planting positive swing thoughts into their player’s mind. A caddy should NEVER tell a golfer, “Don’t do _____” right before he/she makes a shot.
Spieth stepped back from the ball after hearing his father’s admonition and kindly reminded his dad of the faux pas he had just committed. Still, in father mode, his father said, “Well, you know, you did it on No. 11, so I didn’t want you to do it on 13.” Fortunately, Spieth sent the ball down the middle of the fairway, and the untimely advice had no distracting effect.
Reading that story, I had to chuckle, remembering the countless times I’ve gone into Daddy-mode. Even now, as a near 70-year-old grandfather, my five adult children patiently tolerate their dad when he reminds them to drive safely, be careful, and look out for the potholes in life. They have mastered the technique of rolling their eyes out of my sight and smiling politely as if to say “Thanks, Dad,” all while biting their tongues…at least most of the time.
Parenthood has its challenges — at every stage of life. I recall changing diapers for a decade. And somehow, we survived five teenage drivers and 14 years of one or more annual college tuitions. We held them when they cried, kissed their boo-boos, and taught them right from wrong as best we could. There were lessons given on how to tie a tie, deal with bullies, shake a hand, suffer through defeats, and be gracious in victory — all while planting seeds of faith in their fertile hearts. Then they graduated college, moved out of the house, started their lives, got married, and had families of their own — and dads are supposed to just stop being fatherly?
No one ever told me that one of the toughest roles a father can have is to be the father of adult children. Don’t they still need me?
If I were to grade myself in this patriarchal role, I think I might be a B minus. But since I still can’t resist making those fatherly suggestions, reminders, and admonitions, I think it best NOT to seek a report card from my progeny; I’ll settle for the B minus. That said, I have learned a few things in this aging parental role of adult children that I thought I might pass on.
- Become a safe space where your adult children can vent. If they need to talk, you want them to feel like they can always come to you with whatever is troubling their souls.
- Honor their trust in you by keeping their confidence.
- Learn to be a good listener. That’s always a good skill to possess, but should your adult children seek you out and pour out their hearts, their frustrations, and disappointments, resist the temptation to immediately go into fix-it mode. Listen. Ask clarifying questions. Let them talk. Sometimes, they just need to hear themselves out loud.
- Build those relationships throughout their young lives, and you will discover that they are still open to talking with you in adulthood.
- Eliminate certain words and phrases from your vocabulary. “I told you so.” “You should have listened to me.” “Why didn’t you follow my advice?” Such words only create barriers for future conversations. Not to mention, they are a slow poison to killing the relationship.
- Likewise, don’t coddle them by always agreeing with them that it was somebody else’s fault. There are times when children need to suffer the consequences of their actions, and there are times they need a parent to step in and help. Learn when your support is appropriate and timely, versus enabling them to continue bad behavior. Don’t be a dysfunctional enabler.
Even though your children are grown, the words you say and the actions you take are critical to the ongoing development of their self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect. And you never stop planting those seeds of faith.
Your children need to know that they are loved, they matter, and they can always find a receptive and understanding ear when in your presence. When the door opens, and your advice is sought (and unless it is a dire emergency), avoid telling them what to do. Or as my wife reminds me, we must not “Should” on them, telling them they should do this or should do that. Instead, consider asking them, “Have you considered….?” “Here’s a thought…” You may want to discuss this with…”
Ironically, there are times when adult children experience something that reminds you of a similar experience in your own life. Keep in mind, times have changed, and your answers may no longer apply. Nevertheless, you can always say, “A similar thing happened to me. I didn’t handle it very well. Here’s what I did.”
Whatever the situation or scenario, you want your adult child always to know that you love them. You may be disappointed in what they have done or how they handled a particular situation, but that does not change the fact that you are, and always will be, there for them.
I think Jordan Spieth knew his dad meant well with his untimely advice. Caddies are a lot like mentors in their supportive and encouraging counsel. Maybe that’s the role that a parent of adult children should have — the parental role shifts over time from being one of total responsibility for a dependent child to being a counselor and mentor to an independent adult child.
That said, this dad still reminds his adult children to drive safely whenever they leave the house after a visit. “And look out for that pothole at the end of the street.”
After all, dads are always going to be dads.
Note: Thanks to Jon Tyson on unsplash.com for the use of the picture.