I recently picked up my 7-year-old daughter from her after-school program. I started the car and WBBM was playing on the radio. From the back seat I heard, "Dad, why don't you ever listen to music when you're in the car? It's always the news with you."
I couldn't help but laugh out loud. In that moment, I realized I had become my dad -- and I had never been happier.
With three young kids (ages 7, 3 and 14 months), I get to experience these types of moments almost daily. Moments when I catch myself doing something my dad did when I was a kid, reinforcing how old I thought he was and how cool I knew I was. Moments when I say something to my kids I swore I'd never say -- or when I embarrass them until they've finally had enough and kick me out of the room.
Then there are those moments when I watch with joy and awe as one of my kids does something that lets my wife and me know we're doing okay and raising a crew of three good Jewish kids.
I remember playing Candy Land with my daughter who was 3 at the time. It was her turn and she picked the card with a popsicle on it. The picture -- if you can remember -- is an old-school popsicle with two sticks coming out of the bottom. We thought her cheering and jumping up and down was because she got to move up on the board. Turns out, she was so excited because she thought she had picked the Torah card.
Then there's my 3-year-old son. A couple of weeks ago he was in his room working diligently to try and spin a dreidel on his own (because it is never too early to prepare for Chanukah!). He finally got it and ran into our room screaming, "I did it. I spinned the dreidel. We need to say the shehecheyanu" -- the prayer Jews say to celebrate special occasions and thank God for helping us reach this great moment. We, of course, obliged and the whole family joined him in celebration.
And then there's the youngest one. The moment when he says a new word, discovers he's capable of a new skill (climbing is often involved), or can't stop laughing as his big brother chases him around their bedroom. His laugh is contagious, and I really should make it my cell phone ring before he grows up.
As a kid, I remember my dad telling me his favorite job was being a dad. He often told me the greatest joy he had in life was watching my siblings and me grow up and be successful. I always assumed this was just a line from a guy who was in sales for most of his life, one of those things parents say because they're supposed to.
Seven years into fatherhood, I now know my dad wasn't lying. Indeed, without a doubt, being a dad is the greatest job in the world. I'm sorry for doubting you, Dad.
Beyond the joy I get in watching my kids grow up and have their own successes, every day my kids make me a better person. They aren't afraid to call me out and remind me what you say and how you say it really does matter. They ensure I don't take myself too seriously and have the uncanny ability -- especially when teaming up -- to turn a moment of discipline into uncontrollable family laughter. And when we least expect it, they take the lessons we try to teach them and give us back moments of incredible delight when they put the needs of others before themselves.
In case you haven't figured it out, I love being a dad. It is the greatest job in the world and I'm thrilled it's a lifetime appointment.
David Goldenberg is a JUF board member, an adoring father of three, and a resident of Highland Park.