[Patrick Reyes, over at Rey(es) of Light, asked if I would like to guest post on his blog about fatherhood, and I was honored to have the following post published over there.]
Growing up, I never gave a thought to having children.
You see, I am an only child.
I looked around at my friends with brothers and sisters and thought that having siblings would be messy, disruptive and downright inconvenient. On top of my contentment with being an only, I thought it unwise to bring children in to such a fouled up world. I was going to be content being married to a great gal where we worked hard and played hard.
When I met my lovely bride in college, we were pretty honest in our hopes, dreams and aspirations, even as we were just dating. So, she knew early on that kids were not on my radar screen. In fact, when we would go to family functions or were out with friends, it became an ongoing joke that the kiddos would run, literally screaming, from me!
Fast forward sixteen years and I am the tremendously proud father of two extraordinary young men. Granted, they will be five and seven years old this year, but they are our young men.
Did I mention I am proud of these two?
What happened? What was the shift from no kiddos to raving about two yellow-haired monkeys?
I Blame My Wife
You see, much like Charlie Wollberg mentioned in his video, I too believe that being the best father possible means being the best husband possible. As I dated my wife and learned more about her, her family and what was important to her, I could see that family was where she drew a huge portion of her identity. Simply put, I love my wife. I want her to be happy, fulfilled and experience all that life has for her. Selfishly, I also want be a part of her life. This meant that I needed to change my stance on the kid question.
It is ALL about Community
Growing up, as small as my family is, taught me a lot about responsibility, caring for your family and self-sufficiency. My own father is a beacon of self-sufficiency. He spent over 40 years as an engineer with Ford Motor Company. Through his hard work, planning and execution of his duties, he provided for our family. Provided very well. Today, Mom and Dad enjoy a great life in the midst of retirement.
It was my father’s example of being a husband that provided the platform, the base upon which I pursue my own family. Add to that platform my expanded view of family as community that came from my bride’s family (did I mention that I married Italian?) and my view of being a father is much more than being simply a provider of resources.
This expanded view of family requires, at least for this father, a larger set of responsibilities in today’s world. Fathers are so much more than simply providers of resources and security for the family. Those are the minimum standards, if you will.
Being a Father means:
… being my children’s parent first, then friend.
… being an example of the behavior we expect our children to have.
… showing our children how to handle adversity and conflict.
… being responsible for our children’s spiritual, educational, mental and physical growth.
… loving our children, especially when they jump up and down on our last nerve.
… being there, even when they push us away.
… encouraging them to be in community with others, in spite of the pull of pop culture and our media towards isolation and narcissism.
… treating our children as the adults they will become.
… listening to our children. Not just hearing them, but delving into their minds and helping them learn how to think and feel.
… allowing our children to see us vulnerable & human.
I can never claim to have figured out how to “father” best. Heck, I am still hoping the instruction manual for my boyos was simply lost in the mail. But I know two things, for certain, about being a Dad:
- There are very few things in life like having your kids charge you at full run to give a hug and kiss.
- There is NOTHING like watching my sons just love on my wife, their mother.
Did I mention I am proud of these two?
As much as I am supposed to be the parent and supposedly know all there is to know about life, I am constantly amazed at the insights, comments and discussions with my boyos. I love seeing the world through their eyes! Their perception is untainted and innocent at this age and helps to peel back my cynicism and jaded view of the world.
To be a father is to see the world differently, through your children’s eyes.