LOS ANGELES — Go ahead, ask the perfect father of the perfect child for parenting tips. But since most of us fall short of flawless, how about considering Father's Day advice from a dad who's grappled with personal shortcomings, seen a son face his own struggles and still counts his blessings.
Presenting Martin Sheen, 71-year-old actor, liberal activist and father of Charlie Sheen, and Emilio, Ramon and Renee Estevez — all the product of a five-decade marriage to Janet Sheen.
The name that pops out is Charlie, 46, he of the headline-making "Two and a Half Men" meltdown and eruptions over his dad's tough-love attitudes on substance abuse. The waters are calmer with actor-director Emilio, 50, whose collaborations with Sheen include films and the new father-son memoir "Along the Way" (Free Press and Audio.com).
Renee, 45, an actress, has played opposite her dad in several projects, while Ramon, 48, is an actor and an executive with the family's Estevez Sheen production company.
Sheen admits to guilt about how his offspring were affected, in earlier years, by the alcoholism that bedeviled him and by his consuming career ambitions. If he had it to do over again, he wouldn't have had four children, he says, he would have had eight, rough patches or not.
"You're not going to get the ideal relationship," Sheen says. "Charlie could have become a priest, Emilio could have become a doctor. You don't get to choose that. And it's not really a reflection of you. They did have a hand in the bargain."
This Father's Day, as on others before it, Sheen will have a Mass said at his Catholic parish for his sons who are dads, Charlie and Emilio, and for Sheen's late father.
Without benefit of pulpit, but with the bent of a philosopher-poet, here's Sheen's take on the art of fathering:
— "Obviously, be aware that your actions will speak louder and last longer than your words. A child absorbs through osmosis what the parents are feeling and what they do, far more than what they say."
— "If you have an honest relationship with a child, that is the greatest gift. Lead an honest life and be free."
— "Give them time. Time is really all we have."
— With adult children, "you have to be there for them. You have to support them and make sure they know that they are still loved and cherished and you're still in their lives and you're there for them."
— Remember the Irish phrase, "We never get over our fathers, and we're not required to." Adds Sheen: "For good or will, we're stuck with these guys."
— "The most important thing is that regret is useless and faith is necessary and love is everything."