If you are like me, and you browse social media and news sites on a near-daily basis—trying to maintain a grasp of what is happening in the world, and keep up with the news in general—then you always see articles, posts, and blogs out there, many written by people like yours truly, that talk about how you can improve your life by doing things the “Navy SEAL Way.”
Shoot like a Navy SEAL! Fight like a Navy SEAL! Make love like a Navy SEAL! Ten ways to live like a Navy SEAL! How to cook like a Navy SEAL!
We have all seen them, and many of you are probably sick of these types of articles popping up all the time. I know I have written a lot of them, and sometimes I cringe when they are titled in a way that maximizes clicks, which usually means including “Navy SEAL” in the title.
Well, sometimes being a Navy SEAL, or having the SEAL approach to life, can be a drag. Sometimes it does not help at all. Sometimes it is just a downright pain in the ass. Just ask my four kids; they will tell you. They would probably be just as happy to have a laid back, low key, slacker dad/stepdad. Instead, they are stuck with a type-A, driven, aggressive, overachieving fatherly juggernaut. Just like a “Tiger Mom,” I am a Navy SEAL dad, and it is not always a good deal for those unlucky enough to be under my fatherly supervision.
The following are five ways that possessing a Navy SEAL’s personality, and overall approach to life, can be a real bummer when it comes to being a good dad.
1. The drive to succeed (can drive kids crazy).
All SEALs, a priori, to a man, are driven to succeed. They prove it by succeeding at the hardest military training in the world, suffering through pain and misery and state-sanctioned torture, all to become a SEAL. So, yeah, the drive is there. Well, when you have kids, guess what? They aren’t necessarily as driven as you were when you made it through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S). Hell, they oftentimes aren’t even driven enough to try very hard at racquetball.
I came to this profound conclusion as I attempted to teach my oldest boy and his younger brother how to play racquetball at our local gym. Let us get one thing straight: I do not even play racquetball. Ever. They wanted to play at the gym, and I said, “Sure, why not?” Then I proceeded to teach them what I thought must surely be the finer points of racquetball in an attempt to make them (and myself) better. Awesome even. Guess what? They just wanted to bang the ball around that little room, willy nilly. They did not want to learn how to be badass, Navy SEAL, expert-level racquetball players. Just freakin’ chill, Dad.
2. Aggression (can lead to trouble).
Now, we all know kids can be cruel. Everyone experiences bullying as a kid, or has to deal with the idiot neighborhood braggart, or those kids that just bother the hell out of you. Well, my solution, and guidance, to my four kids is: Be aggressive. Do not take any shit. Ever. If a kid tells you that you are ugly, then you tell them they are stupid, and ask them if they would like to settle it outside. If another kid tells your stepdaughter that her outfit is hideous, you tell your stepdaughter to tell her that she is ugly, and that at least your stepdaughter can change her clothes tomorrow (oh snap!). If someone pushes you on the playground, you push them back harder. If someone, God forbid, picks on your brother or stepbrother or stepsister, or insults your mother, then you unleash holy hellfire on them—consequences be damned.
This is good advice, and I will never stop giving it, but it does not exactly go along with the tenets of conflict resolution taught in our schools today. There, you must address the issue verbally, talk it out, and explain how what the other kid was saying to you was not nice, and was hurting your feelings. That is all fine and good, and probably works in lots of situations—and I endorse it for many infractions—but there comes a point where push literally comes to shove, and you throw that shit out the window and stick up for yourself or your family. You will not hear that taught at school, though, so it can lead to some trouble if your kids go that route. I am okay with that, and I tell my kids that they will never be in trouble at home for sticking up for themselves at school.
3. Suck it up! (can make me look like an asshole).
During BUD/S training, instructors are constantly telling the students to “suck it up,” and to “suffer in silence.” The point is, it sucks for everyone, and you whining about it, complaining, and feeling sorry for yourself does not help you get through it and complete the mission. You have to buckle down, suck it up, muscle through, and grit it out.
That is all fine and good for young men training for war and learning to master their weaknesses. It is not always good, though, when you are dealing with sick kids, or kids struggling with some educational or emotional issue. They simply do not want to hear it. They want you to be empathetic. They want you to comfort them. They want you to tell them it will all be okay. I am not always good at that, and I have to constantly remind myself to treat them like the children they are, and not like the BUD/S students they may one day be. It is not only my job to make them hard and tough. That will come later. I also need to make them feel loved.
4. Organize and prepare (and miss spontaneous fun).
Not all SEALs are type-A organizationally, meaning that they do not all plan everything meticulously, look ahead, evaluate go/no-go criteria, have contingency plans, escape and evasion plans, consider alternative courses of action, and…okay, so yeah, maybe they do, to some degree or another. It is a blessing and a curse.
As a SEAL or former SEAL, you will always find your restaurant, arrive there on time, safely, and you will successfully avoid any potential muggers that might be lingering in the alley adjacent to the establishment. You will successfully plan and execute that family road trip to the amusement park or the beach, roughly on the time schedule you planned out two weeks before the drive. Everyone will enjoy their ration of non-messy, individually wrapped snacks in the back seat, and hold their bladders until the appointed bathroom breaks.
Sounds like fun, right? Well, in an attempt to successfully deliver one’s child to a place of entertainment or vacation, it is sometimes hard for the SEAL-type personality to give in to spontaneity. It can be hard to remember that half the fun is in the travel itself, and in the sense of wonder that a kid can experience in just getting there—seeing the country as they go. They might want to stop and check out that giant fireworks emporium on the side of the highway. It might interfere with your schedule. Sometimes, you just have to give in. Adjust fire and go with the flow. It ain’t always easy.
5. Always try to be the best (and get stressed out).
This hearkens back to the “drive to succeed” mentioned above, but it goes beyond that. Typically, it is not good enough for a SEAL to just succeed—BUD/S notwithstanding—as every SEAL wants to be the best at pretty much everything they do. Of course, we are not always (or even usually) the best, but we want to be, and we act accordingly. We compete, we prepare, and we dedicate mental energy to excelling. How can I be a better shooter? How can I be the fastest swimmer in my platoon? How can I edge out my buddy on the obstacle course?
Well, kids do not always need to be that competitive. In fact, it can get old when they are. Few things become as tiresome as two brothers constantly arguing over who is better at Super Mario 3D World. Yet, they learn it from us. They see me training to run a 20-mile trail race, talking about how I need to run a certain split time to do well. They sit and listen as you tell them that getting a “B” on their report card is fine, but you know that they can do better. They patiently accept our unsolicited advice on how to master racquetball so that we can make them awesome at it.
Guess what, though? It sometimes stresses them out. They should not have to live up to that standard in everything. Grades, yes, fine. But, man, forget the racquetball. Just get in there and bang that ball around. Let them be kids, and let yourself be a normal dad for once.