June 17th, 2012
09:26 AM ET

Letters to the President #1245: 'On Father's Day'

Reporter's Note: President Obama, like me, has two daughters

Dear Mr. President,

Happy Father’s Day! I hope it finds you and your family happy, and that by the time the day is over you are the proud recipient of a new tie or perhaps some athletic socks.

I like being a father. Before my wife and I had kids, to be honest, I didn’t much care about them one way or the other. I know that probably sounds harsh, but it is true.

Some people are gaga over children; constantly holding babies, tickling five year olds, and throwing baseballs with the older kids. Not me. I used to greet all kids, no matter the age, with a simple, “Hey, how’s it going?” Sometimes they gurgled. Sometimes they spit up. Sometimes they ran crying from the room. Made no difference to me because I just didn’t find them very interesting.

Then, of course, we had kids of our own, and suddenly I realized what everyone else found so fascinating. I watched with rapt fascination as our girls took their first steps, learned to catch crickets, mastered the computer mouse, marveled at sunlight on the patio, squealed in swings, shied away from cows, drew with crayons, splashed water in creeks, climbed trees, dressed up for Halloween, broke eggs, read books, shivered in the snow, tumbled down hills, made their beds, jumped over sidewalk cracks, tried on hats, and piled into our bed when lightning cracked the midnight sky…not out of fear, but so we could all share the magnificent show of nature’s power.

Yeah, I like being a father. I like it so much, that as the years have gone by, I have lost a good bit of myself in my children. It’s not like I’m living through them, because heaven knows I have enough interesting things going on my own life, but rather as if I am happier over their accomplishments than I am my own.

Maybe I feel that way because my father did too. His life was fulfilling. He remained intellectually curious and engaged right up until his death. He loved and laughed deeply, and he was as smart as a human can be. Yet as my brother and sister and I grew older, it became more and more clear how much his interest in our lives was outpacing his interest in his own. And slowly, I feel it happening with me too.

So the greatest gift my daughters can give me on Father’s Day or any day is simple: They can be happy and well. They can engage the world with love, intelligence, and humor. They can put the welfare of others on par with their own. They can have faith, show mercy, be brave, have manners, standup for what is right, and fight vigorously against that which is wrong. They can learn to see great beauty, appreciate great art, and savor the little moments of life that make it worth living.

They’ve already spent this much of their lives pointing and saying, “That’s my dad.” I want to spend the rest of mine pointing and saying, “Those are my daughters.” And I know I will.