Tiger Woods and his wife had a baby boy this weekend, to go along with the baby daughter they already had. And I have the distinct feeilng that Tiger Woods has a great future as a father, because his own dad was a very good example for him to follow.
His father, Earl Woods, a Green Beret who served in Vietnam, instilled in Tiger a sense of dedication and toughness that is still hard to comprehend, even when we see it on display many weekends out of the year. Think of all the ways that could have gone wrong: pushing too hard, or not enough, or losing track of what is important and making it all about drive and achievement at the cost of everything else in your lives.
But Earl Woods also had a tender, loving side, and we know this is true, because of the way Tiger talks about his dad, and because of the tears he has shed in public in his memory. If Earl Woods had been nothing but a driven, relentless taskmaster, odds are pretty good Tiger wouldn’t have said the things he’s said, and shown the emotion he’s shown. No, quite the opposite, I think: Tiger Woods revered his father. Even with all the pushing, and all the demanding, and the relentless pursuit of perfection.
He revered him because his dad was uniquely suited to recognize and cultivate not just Tiger’s talent, but his capacity for being pushed to the absolute limit. He revered him because Tiger knows, today, as a parent himself, just how hard that balancing act really is: to be able to push at the right times, and pull back on the reins sometimes too. In the big picture, that’s what good parenting is all about, really: you set expectations high, and you demand a lot, but you also show your kids what love is all about too. And in doing this, what the child is learning is that love and expectations are all wrapped up together, inseparable.
And by achieving as much as he has, Tiger Woods has validated everything his dad taught him. All the mentally exhausting practice sessions, validated. All the fatigue, validated. All the pushing, validated.
It becamse pretty obvious to me, long ago, that what we have seen with Tiger and his dad has been a unique and wonderful lesson in not just athletic achievement, but in parenting achievement, too.
And you have to wonder, now that he and his wife have two young kids, just how strong the pull of playing professional golf really is, any more. He has already won 14 majors, and been a pro for well over 10 years. He makes many tens (or is it hundreds?) of millions of dollars, just from his endorsement deals, every year; he sure doesn’t need golf income. He has the Tiger Woods Foundation. And he’s coming off injury. I’m no Tiger Woods, and I don’t pretend to know what makes him tick, deep down, but I just wonder if the pull of some of these things, especially with his own dad now gone nearly three years, might start to overcome the pull of winning more golf tournaments.
Who knows? I sure don’t. None of us can. But I do know that it’s been a pleasure to watch him not just play golf over the years, but to grow from a college kid into a man before our eyes. And even more impressive, to stare down defeat, and win, nearly every single time. He’s shown us what toughness and focus is all about.
The bar has been raised, not just in golf, and not just in sports, but in parenting, too.