Old Pueblo Abuelo: Being a father is hard

This is the 34th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson, the Old Pueblo.

Being a father is difficult. It’s hard. For many though, it can be as easy as just being there. As a teacher of over 35 years, a coach for 20 and a youth and high school reporter for over 15, I’ve witnessed the many forms of what a dad is – good and bad. As a son to a father and as a father to three girls, I’ve witnessed and taken part in getting things right, even by happenstance, and getting things very, very wrong.

For some, having a person being there seems to be enough because something from nothing is something. Society never gives enough credit to those who filled the void by necessity and out of love. A father can be a mother. A father can be a grandparent. A father can be a teacher. A father can be a stepfather. A father can be two mothers. A father can be two fathers. It’s all up to the child, only the child can decide if you were good enough to be called “dad.”


I’ve seen dads coach on the playing fields and I’ve seen fathers “coach” from the stands. I’ve seen fathers demand more from their own children and fathers demand less because it’s impossible to demand the same as the other kids no matter how much a father claims he is. If a father-coach tells you different, he’s lying.

I’ve seen the pressure put on little boys and girls, and not so little boys and girls, by fathers who are acting like they want to switch places, as if they are the ones pitching, batting, catching and shooting. They call their own kids “soft” or they criticize teammates in an attempt to elevate their own kids or they promote and promote until it becomes uncomfortable to watch. Very few are able to make a child feel safe in the moment. If a father tells you he’s just trying to build character in his son or daughter, he’s lying.

The ones who claim they are building character in their children are the first to excuse bad behaviors. Their children are protected from discipline at school and on the playing fields and the “boys will be boys” attitude follows them to adulthood. There is no character, only characters.

My own father was out saving the world and much of what meant being a father, day-to-day, fell to my mother. In varying degrees, it’s probably this way for a lot of families. I had a sense of what my father was doing at a young age but had no real understanding until it was almost too late. What he did had to be done. He was making the lives of other families better beyond anything I could ever do, no matter how hard I’ve tried, but his own children were safe thanks to a strong and loving mother.

Still, he had no idea how well I was doing in school. He wanted a lawyer, my mom wanted an artist. I wanted to teach. He had no real idea until he went to pay my college tuition and the lady behind the counter looked at my transcript and told him I had a scholarship. I had a strange and confusing feeling of pride and embarrassment standing next to him because, as an athlete, I spent the greater part of four years trying to hide my grades from my peers and my family. It was a different time when such things weren’t celebrated. Even then, my father graduated from high school at the age of 16 and then went off to war and I graduated at the age of 18 and went off to learn how to teach. It will never be enough.

Later in life, as his life was fading, we had talks. We talked of moving past tolerance towards acceptance. We talked of doing good for others instead of doing well for yourself. We talked of watching where you sit because you stand closest to where you sit. He tried to fill a lifetime of lessons into a few months but he had no idea I had already figured out who he was, and almost figured out who I was. He had already taught me those things through his actions. I just wanted to talk.

My own mistakes are numerous, as my children can probably spell out, and my effort was not always what I wanted it to be. My children know I love them and they know I’m proud of them.  They know this because I tell them and I show them. I’ve tried to save the world and I could have only tried that because they have a strong and loving mother.

I made the mistake of “burning” a child out on high-level sports from the age of eight to 18, for which I have apologized, and I changed and I learned. I was there for almost everything and I will try to be there until I can no longer. What they feel is important is important. I know I’ve failed them many times.

My days were once numbered but I was lucky. It’s pure luck I am still here today but today could be my last, or tomorrow, we never know. Being a father is difficult. It’s hard.

Ser padre es difícil. Mucho.


Named one of “Arizona’s Heart & Sol” by KOLD and Casino del Sol, Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and a 2019 AZ Education News recognition. He was a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling and his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is a Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. He earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater and he was recognized by City Councilman Richard Fimbres. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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