Listen, son, I know it might seem like I’m a little tough on you at times. Obviously nobody wants to have their dad constantly breathing down their neck, pushing them to do things they don’t want to do, and then berating them for not living up to his unrealistic expectations. I get that. But you have to realize I’m doing this all for a reason. While it might not make sense now, when you’re in your late 30s and revile your life and hate the man you’ve become, you’ll be thanking me.
Trust me, one day, when you're almost 40 and a bubbling cauldron of bitterness and regret, then you will understand.
Now, I'm sure that, right now, I probably seem like the meanest guy in the world to you. In fact, it probably feels to you like I'm only here to shame you, belittle you, and unfairly force you to bear the burden of my own deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and rage. What with all the name-calling, the constant admissions that you're disappointing me, and all the talk about how I demand the best from my son and anything less is unacceptable, you will likely feel pretty small and helpless sometimes.
But know this: You're going to wake up one morning at 37 or 38 and realize that you’ve been in a career you despise for 15 years, you've wasted your 20s and 30s in a grim cycle of self-hatred and failed relationships, and you’re not even sure what, if anything, makes you happy anymore. And I promise you, on that very morning, you will call me up and say, "Thanks, Dad. You were right, it was worth it."
You’ll remember all those times I didn’t let you hang out with your friends. You'll remember all those times I made you study until the wee small hours of the morning or fiercely practice, over and over, a sport you don't even enjoy. You'll remember all those times I grounded you for getting B-pluses on tests, and all those times I would make you promise, with tears in your eyes, to be better than all the other kids at school, and you'll know it was all for a reason: so you could grow up to be a morose, unsatisfied, and emotionally damaged adult.
I promise you this will happen, son. Believe me, your old man knows a thing or two.
And look, I don’t expect you to understand this now. After all, why should you? I didn’t at your age. But someday you, too, will have kids you barely see because you’re always out working the job you hate, and you, too, will want to push them to an unsustainable extreme and make them paralyzed with worry and anxiety. And that's when the lessons and horrifying control issues I'm imparting to you now will finally pay off. Years from now, your own weak, inadequate children will, in turn, benefit from the way I am molding you into the exacting, unaffectionate, and hyper-critical father I've always tried to be for you.
And then, once you've actually started to resent and hate your own child for being younger than you, and once the painful realization of what your life could have been versus what it is has fully dawned on you, you’ll be able to say, "This is because of my old man and how he neutered my enjoyment for life when I was young and turned me into a near carbon copy of his simmering, depressed, emotionally arrested adult self."
In fact, if I’ve done my job right, you won’t even be conscious of it until after this transformation has already happened. Ideally, the hell I put you through on a daily basis will be so ingrained in your psyche, you won’t even think twice as you push your own kids to master some skill, or sport, or academic discipline against their will—a thing that, regardless of their actual interests, furthers some unfulfilled goal of yours that I prevented you from achieving years ago. Trust me, I will make sure this happens, my son.
So shut up and finish your homework, because we’re getting up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow for swim practice.