On this Father’s Day weekend, I want to dedicate my latest blog entry to my father, Steve Jackson.
My father is a tremendous person to me. Whenever I’m asked the question about who is my role model, who I look up to, I’ve always named my father first. I’m grateful to have him in my house, and still have the ability to call him and talk to him every day.
As I’ve grown up, my dad has worn a lot of hats for me. First and foremost, he was the guy that provided for my family. He’s also the person that I learned a lot of my values and characteristics from.
As I’ve talked about in the past, my father is a Marine, and a lot of the mental and physical toughness I have comes from him. When I was a kid, he was always on me about doing the right thing even when no one was looking, to make sure that I always held myself accountable for my responsibilities. I think that has translated into my career and why I’ve been able to be so successful in the NFL.
My father did play some sports growing up. He always tells me that he was a great shortstop, and being from Arkansas, he wanted to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. But he was drafted into the Vietnam War, and that kind of stopped his pursuit of his dream of being a professional athlete. But from what he tells me, he was a great baseball player.
The way I carry myself comes from my father, too. Everyone has those things about their father that annoyed them growing up, but now sometimes, I’ll catch myself doing those same things with my children. Life is funny that way.
My father has taught me a lot of things. First and foremost is to be a man of your word, and always try to leave a situation better than the way you received it. It’s simple to take the easy way out, or point the finger and blame others for what happens in life. Personally, I’ve learned to take the humble approach, and to accept that none of us is perfect and we all have things to work on. That comes from him too.
I’ve seen it play out time again that if you make the effort to leave a situation better than how you received it, things work out even when they shouldn’t.
That’s why he taught me to be a giver, like he is. He has a kind heart and is always offering an ear to listen to people’s problems. I’ve seen it not only with family members, but friends of his or even strangers that needed some assistance of some sort. Regardless of where my father is and whatever he’s going through, he tends to always put the things he’s going through to the side to try to be that pillar of strength for someone else.
He’s not afraid to go against the advice of people whose opinion he values, and put himself in a somewhat uncomfortable situation to help someone else out, just because he believes in his ability to provide and lead. The older I get, the more I see that as an example of how unselfish he is as a person.
FROM SON TO FATHER
I’m so glad that I’ve had my father around to light the way for me as I became a father.
Becoming a father is the greatest gift that I believe God can give any man. But it certainly has its challenges.
I’ve grown a lot in fatherhood over the last several years. It makes you become a lot less self-centered. Before I was a father, I prioritized my needs and wants. But now, I can see the big picture of life, and understand that life is what you make it.
I hope that my sons take from both myself and my father the quality of being God-fearing men. We’ve all been raised in my family to keep God first, and I believe when we do that, we find out that things tend to work out just fine.
The hardest thing for me about being a parent is having to say goodbye to my children. I love to be with them each and every day. One of the greatest joys is simply to hear them scream, “Daddy!” or run up to me when I get home after a long day. Even when I’m sore, tired and beat up, when those young guys run up and jump on me, despite how much in pain I may be in, it brings such joy that I don’t even feel it.
The grind of the season or a demanding calendar can sometimes make it tough for me to see them as often as I’d like. But all I can do is hope that they come to understand that a lot of times when dad’s not home, it’s not because I don’t want to be. It’s because I’m trying to make a better way for them, and make sure that we all can live comfortably.
I take a lot of pride in what I do. The biggest lesson I can teach them is to do the same. As long as you commit to something and do it to the best of your ability, there are no regrets. If you give it all that you have to what you do, then you can look at yourself in the mirror each and every day, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
My sons play sports, but it’s funny: I only want them to play sports if it’s in their heart. I don’t want them to feel pressure because their father is an athlete that they have to be one too. My children are very talented in many ways, from being creative writers to little artists of their own. So whatever they decide they want to do or whatever things they feel like they want to explore in life, they know that if they commit themselves 100 percent to it, I’m behind them.
My father has taught me a lot about communicating with my children to make sure that they always understand why things are happening. Whether it is something they did wrong, or even when they get accolades at school or sports or extracurricular activities, he taught me the importance of explaining to them why they may have received an accolade, or why discipline needed to be enforced.
That’s important. Just telling someone what to do doesn’t really help them grow, and it doesn’t help them solve their problems. We all know that the older you get, the more complicated things become. Young people need to develop the ability and wisdom to make problem solving as easy as possible as they get older.
So I always try to make sure that I communicate with my children. Even when we’re doing homework, I try to make sure that they understand what I’m explaining. And if they don’t understand it the way I’m trying to teach it, then I try to find another way to communicate it until they do get it. I’ve seen that at work countless times between my father and I, and that’s why I’m able to talk to him about anything. That’s why I believe that even after a game on Sunday, I take his criticism to heart more than I take anyone else’s. I know that it comes from a place of love where he wants only the best for me.
No one is going to be here on earth forever, but we can live forever within the next generation. So I know if I continue to instill in my children what was instilled in me by my father, they’ll know I’ll always be with them. I want them to know that no matter where they are in life, whether it’s by phone when they’re older or even when I’m no longer here with them, by that whisper in the ear or that feeling that we have all sometimes felt in our heart, our loved one is with us.
This world needs more men, regardless of race, regardless of age, to stand up and be positive role models. That starts with us. I believe if each individual man were to strive to not only live up to the example that is set, but surpass it, it would become so infectious that all people would want to do that.
If we all do that, our young men in the next generation will be all right.