What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood to me has been an evolving process. In many ways I have grown to understand fatherhood in no small measure because of the amazing boy that I have grown with, my son Will.
I have learned that fatherhood means always being there for your child, no matter what.
To always be honest in the ways I act and in how I express myself and never stop showing and letting Will know how much I love him. To always be open to new experiences. To listen closely to all of the things he wants to share and NOT share. To honor and respect Will every step of the way no matter whether I agree with him or not and to find humor in everything we encounter. And to always apologize to him when I am wrong or when I may act in ways I know better. To never stop hugging him no matter how big he gets. Perhaps, above all, to let Will know by his experience in our house that strength of a man and a dad comes from the inside, through kindness and tenderness and through the ever-present respect and enduring love I share with his mom. That arguments that end with a hug are healthy and that you can laugh through an argument. That we never go to sleep angry with each other–ever!
What is the best part of being a dad?
To be able to watch and share all of the countless experiences Will goes through. I can’t wait to see him each and every morning and I can’t wait to see him at the end of every day. I love witnessing the day-by-day changes in his growth and his confidence and self-discovery. I love being there for him. I love watching how the world responds to him and how he loves experiencing the world. I love his supreme confidence in himself as it grows inside and out.
What is your proudest moment as a dad?
Well, there are three or four that really stand out, but you asked for one so I have to abide by your request. I would say that among the four what stands out most was when Will was much younger, he got in trouble at school. The Assistant Principal told him told him to do something and he would not do it. He got so mad because he said he did not do what the AP said he did and the AP did not treat him with respect.
“He was very mean to me!” Will said. When we asked him why he did what he did he said, “He may have been right in asking, but he had no right to treat me so disrespectfully.” This is huge in our house. Authority has its place but we NEVER treat each other with disrespect! I was so proud he stood up to an adult over the issue of respect.
What do you and your child do for fun?
Well, quite honestly, we laugh ourselves through much of our time together! We love to go to the movies and watch lots of movies together at home late at night. We love to make popcorn and use too much butter and we LOVE to cook together. Will is a fabulous cook! We also love to play act and put on accents and make up comedy routines. Will is arguably the funniest person I know and I often just watch him and laugh constantly at his routines and skits, which he makes up on the spot. We laugh ourselves silly!
What is the hardest part about being a dad?
I am such a non-traditional type of dad. I am not a sports kind of guy. I don’t fix things. I love to cook and I am a nurturer. I guess you could say I have more female genes than some men! I thought that would make it hard for Will to develop a sense of a role model.
I also have some physical issues due to an on-the-job accident that happened when Will was a baby and I have not worked a ‘regular’ job in his lifetime. I worried that this would create issues for him and time will tell, but we are who we are and I have discovered that that is the most important thing I can be as a dad. He seems OK that I am just the way I am.
Another issue as a dad that is really hard is feeling all of the many ups and downs any father/parent does with their child. So far Will's resilience to life has and continues to be truly remarkable.
What kind of dad do you strive to be?
I guess I would say that I probably have responded to some of this above so I won’t repeat my thoughts. However, I would say that I so want to remain open to the world around me and to all of the world’s people, because I want Will to feel the human condition around him and never take for granted all that life has given him.
I want to always be kind and loving, to strive to constantly remake myself and not get stale. To grow and change and recognize that what life gives us is not always what we had hoped, worked and/or planned for and how we face the painful and difficult in our lives leaves a lasting impression on those we love the most.
Describe your funniest moment as a dad?
Wow! There are too many to pick one but here’s one that rates near the top. When Will was a baby I did do a rather fatherly thing and took him to a Rockies game. I so wanted to catch a ball in the worst way for him so as the game wore on I grew more anxious that this would not happen. Well, finally in the 7th or 8th inning a fly ball came right into our seats and I had Will in my lap and a glove on my hand. As the fly ball came right by us I jumped up to catch the ball and I dropped Will to the ground in the process. Needless to say I did not catch the ball and Will looked up at me with tears in his eyes and a look that could kill! To this day I laugh hysterically at the memory of the look on his face.
What would you hope that your kids would say about you if asked what kind of a dad they have?
I guess I would hope Will would say that I was honest and open with my feelings and actions. That he knew I was always ready to have fun and laugh and that I was kind, gentle and loving and never compromised when it came to my love of him or how I treated and loved his mom, Betty!
What is the most important piece of advice you’ve received about fatherhood?
Hmmm. This is not one that I can say I have had much experience with nor have I sought. I guess I would say it has been more a process of advice I have gleaned from watching and experiencing my own father and other dads throughout my lifetime. I discovered and had the gift of some very special male mentors I looked up to and still do to this day.
Again, I would say be who you are and don’t be afraid to be wrong a lot. Relish making fun of yourself. The rewards are endless! Love without any sense of restraint and let your children be who they are meant to be. Don’t determine that you know best very often because you don’t! Listen and learn from them. If you do you will be amazed and wiser!
What would you consider to be your most inspiring moment as a dad?
This is not an easy one because it caused Will so much pain, but in the end it was hugely moving and inspiring. When Will was in 7th grade he got in some trouble with the law. Suffice it to say it was not something that unusual as problems go, but it was entirely out of ‘character’ for Will. There were significant consequences which came as a result not from us per se as his parents, but from the law.
Well, there were many steps Will had to go through to make amends for what he had done and many months were involved in this process. But throughout the entire ordeal Will never once, literally not once, did he complain or fuss or even say how mad he was with himself for what he had done. He just accepted the consequences and did EVERYTHING demanded of him.
When I asked him how he could do everything without any complaint or fuss he simply responded, “Daddio, I did what I did and it was wrong and this is just what I have to do. No big deal!” I was astounded. I would never, as an adult have been able to handle my missteps nearly as well. I have always been inspired by this and by Will.
Robert's son, Will Sobel, is a participant in East High School's Angels Against Abuse Club. Click here
to learn more about this organization.