Taylor: Like most dads, ex-Cowboy Troy Aikman does best he can
Aikman, the professional, works as a member of Fox’s top football announcing team, and has demonstrated a subtle sense of humor as a corporate spokesman, whether he’s shooting a commercial with a monkey or Hulk Hogan.
Aikman, the father, simply does the best he can. He’s just like the rest of us.
Being the star quarterback of America’s Team didn’t prepare him for shaping and influencing the lives of his children.
No job does.
We all know what they say about preacher’s kids.
But on this day set aside to honor fathers, Aikman will find more joy and contentment sharing the day with his wife, Rhonda, and three daughters – Rachel, Jordan and Ally – than anything he ever experienced on the football field or broadcast booth.
Aikman savors fatherhood. It’s even better than he imagined.
Aikman waited until he finished playing to have children, in part, because he wanted to enjoy every aspect of fatherhood, from changing diapers to dropping his kids off at school each morning.
That’s their time to discuss what’s hot in their lives, whether it’s the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana or the next softball or soccer game.
Like most of us, Aikman knows those days won’t last forever. Soon, his daughters will be choosing their friends over him.
Ally’s daily kiss goodbye is already a tender memory. Second-graders don’t slobber on their daddy every morning when they arrive for school.
“I knew it wouldn’t last forever,” Aikman said with a chuckle.
“The one thing playing football did for me was teach me to really enjoy the moment. I didn’t really do that with the Super Bowls because you’re so busy trying to win them, so when I had kids, I wanted to take the time to enjoy each and every moment and stage of their development.”
Aikman’s job as an NFL commentator means he works six months a year. From August through the Super Bowl in February, he works every weekend.
As the girls have gotten older and become involved in more activities, work forces Aikman to miss some events. When it happens, he hurts like any parent, because once they’re gone, those moments vanish forever.
While pictures and video are nice, it’s not the same.
You want to see the smile on your child’s face as it happens. You want to feel their joy, their excitement – even their disappointment as it occurs. You want them running into your arms when the event ends.
At those moments, Aikman relies on Rhonda, his wife of 10 years, to provide soothing words that remind him of all the events he does attend.
And every month or so, Aikman goes on a date with one of his daughters. It’s an opportunity for them to receive some undivided attention.
Maybe they go to dinner. Or take in a Mavs game. Or take a weekend trip.
“I want the girls to know how much I love them,” Aikman said. “I tell them 10-15 times a day. My family was more traditional. My parents loved me, but they didn’t say it a lot to me when I was a kid.”
It doesn’t matter whether you loved or hated him. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up with him or never knew him, the relationship – or the lack of one – between a boy and his father impacts a child’s life forever.
It influences decisions and shapes behavior for a lifetime.
Aikman’s father, Kenneth, was tough, a hard-working man. He passed those traits on to his son, and it’s part of the reason Aikman succeeded as a professional athlete.
Meticulous in his preparation and robotic in his efficiency, Aikman believed there was no substitute for hard work on the football field, and in life. Aikman is giving his children the same values.
He preaches accountability and responsibility while leading by example, just like he did for his teammates.
Just because Aikman can afford to replace a misplaced softball bat doesn’t mean he will, as Jordan discovered earlier this year. No worries, she eventually found it.
Softballs and soccer balls have their proper place, and it’s not in the middle of the floor, but that wouldn’t surprise anyone who saw the way Aikman’s clothes always hung neatly in his locker.
Jordan and Ally understand the difference between how to behave in public and how they can act at home. Spankings have been part of their development, but it’s been a while since Aikman had to go that route.
At times, Aikman wonders if he’s being too tough on his kids – don’t we all? – but he doesn’t want them to grow up with a feeling of entitlement because of the life their father has forged for them. It’s important for them to be thankful and appreciative of the blessings their family has received.
“My focus on fatherhood has really been on making sure they’re prepared for life whenever I’m not around,” he said. “The greatest thing that can happen is for your kids to talk about us in a loving way after we’re gone like the way Joe Buck talks about his dad, Jack Buck.
“You can feel how much he loved his dad. Whenever that day comes, I just hope they talk about me the same way.”
Aikman isn’t interested in any kudos. He’s doing the same things any responsible father does.
No more, no less.
It’s among the reasons he recently turned down an opportunity to be honored as Father of the Year.
“The Father of the Year is some guy working two jobs, providing for his family and still making time for his kids,” Aikman said. “The Father of the Year is the guy we don’t hear about.
“I’m not the Father of the Year. Everyone does the best he can, including me.”
Then you pray that it’s good enough.