When Colin was born nearly 12 years ago, many people had no qualms telling me that parenting wasn't going to be easy. Sleep, they said, would become a precious commodity. My life of perceived luxury, they cackled, would soon be over. Changing a messy diaper in 45 seconds, they offered, would be an accomplishment.
You know what? They were right, in each and every case. You know what else? There were a lot of things people never told me. That's why, for the most part, especially since I grew up without a direct point of reference of my own, I've had to learn as I've went along this journey of fatherhood.
Have I been perfect.? Hardly. Far from it, as a matter of fact. Parenting is not an exact science. There's no manual, only well-intentioned advice from those who have been there and done that.
One of the steepest learning curves has been -- and will likely remain -- understanding the difference between being a father and a daddy. Like most anything else, the delineation between the two isn't always clear. Never has been. It's unlikely, too, that it ever will be.
To me, being a father is far more difficult than being a daddy. It's not as black and white as you may believe, especially for someone like me whose life doesn't have nearly enough gray.
As a father, you have to teach important lessons that last a lifetime, not simply turn into monotonous lectures. You have to introduce the concept of consequences, and how their durations are seldom quick, without ending up with an unintended one of your own. You have to reinforce the value of hard work, without making that the sole purpose of a life.
Being a daddy, though, is more about having fun. It's about playing catch and skipping stones. It's about sharing stories from your childhood and turning boys' nights outs into memorable adventures. It's about sharing a passion and passing along knowledge. It's about making your child smile.
The tricky dribble, however, is blending these two roles. And that's a task that can be the hardest, when life dictates whipsaw moves from daddy to father to daddy, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
For the most part, being a daddy is my default. It's easier. It's natural. And, honestly, it requires very little practice. It's like I tell Colin, "daddy" rhymes with "buddy."
But when conditions dictate, and Lord knows there have been a few as of late, it's time to be a father. It's far more important to raise a solid young man, who knows right from wrong, than it is to have him be anything else. Sure, I'd love to someday say my son plays in the NHL. But I know that his character and education will take him further in life than any abilities he has on skates.
Bottom line, that's my job. That's any father's responsibility. Like I said before, no one ever told me it was going to be a thick slab of chocolate cake. And, honestly, nothing good comes easy.