Somewhere along the way of learning how to be a father, I've gotten into the habit of calling my son "buddy" or "mate".
"How's it going buddy."
"Morning buddy, sleep well?"
"Love you mate."
And while in this day and age, those terms have a universal and friendly appeal, I have come to realise that they are sending the completely wrong message.
I'm not his buddy. I'm not his mate. And I should never aspire to be.
I'm his Dad.
He will have many mates over the course of his life. Many friends. Many buddies.
But he will only ever have one father.
You see, I have realised that the roles of buddy and father are radically different.
A buddy's job is to be fun, familiar, agreeable.
A father's job however, is to teach his children how to become capable, principled, independent adults.
So positioning myself as his "buddy" simply won't cut it. A buddy is not up to the task of being a father.
Now I'm sure some will say that the words you use are a small thing but in looking back over my life, I can see that the names we call our sons and daughters, and the relationship dynamics that those names create, matters.
So numerous slip-ups aside, I've stopped calling my boy "buddy."
I call him "son."
And every time I get it right, I can almost feel the energy in the air between us strengthen. Because the bond between father and son is stronger than between any friends.
Each time I let him know that I am his father, he is reminded that I am the one he can bring his problems to. I am the one who can share his fears and pain without judgement. I am the one upon whose shoulders he can stand and who will be there every step of the way.
That I will love him always, regardless of nything.
Most importantly, every time I call him "son", he knows that if forced to choose between his approval or his ultimate good, I will choose the latter, no matter how unpopular that makes me.
A buddy will not do that.
These children of mine are not just companions on this journey of life, but my greatest charge, my highest responsibility, and my ultimate legacy.
Choose your words wisely.
They will affect generations.