A colleague asked me today if I lost my freedom when I became a father. I told him, “Yes, but I knew what I was getting into,” but both parts of that statement were false. Having kids didn’t destroy my freedom. In fact, it helped me revitalize myself. And I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. None at all.
Here’s what I knew going into parenthood:
- I wanted to spend time with my kids. Real time, like playing games and reading with them.
- I wanted to be on the same page with my wife when it came to discipline and enrichment.
- Kids go through stages, and I wanted to be prepared for each stage.
- Kids like animation, so I would probably be watching a fair bit of animation with them.
- I would be a role model for my kids, so I would have to be extremely careful in what I did and said
That’s it. That’s all I knew when we decided we wanted to be parents, and as I look through each of them I see shades of things that have happened over the course of these past 8+ years, but things don’t always happen the way we think they will. Kids are individuals, and no two are alike, so I’ve had to get to know my children. To find out what things they will copy and what things they won’t. To figure out how their minds work in order to absorb information. To learn how to head things off before they begin by being aware of what’s going on with them at all times.
And I’ve realized so much about myself in the process. I used to think I was so patient, that it was some innate talent I had, my superpower if you will. But when my daughter won’t stop repeating a line from one of her TV shows, or when she doesn’t pick up her skirt from the floor even though I’ve told her a million times, I find myself ready to blow my lid. All of that so-called patience just flies out the window and I need to go somewhere and control my emotions. It’s helped me to work hard on being truly patient instead of just saying I am.
I’ve also realized that planning means absolutely nothing when it comes to kids. They can throw off the best laid plans because sometimes no matter what you do you can’t make them move faster, or you can’t stop the spill from happening, or you can’t speed them up in the bathroom. I learned that being a parent means adjusting to those issues, not making excuses, but trying to help them figure it all out. If they want to be at swim class they need to do X, Y, and Z before we can leave. It’s not always easy to teach and model those behaviors but it’s rewarding when my daughter comes to me, ready to go, but now she has to wait for me to get ready.
This role model thing is difficult, too. I mean, sometimes it really does become a “do as I say, not as I do,” kind of thing, and I have to stop myself from letting that happen. That’s what I mean when I say that I’ve revitalized myself as a result of being their father. I’ve rediscovered who I am, and who I want to be in their eyes, and I’m appreciating the one while realizing the other for the first time. It doesn’t come easy, but it’s amazing when it clicks, when we have those moments that I know wouldn’t be possible if becoming a father hadn’t changed me, fundamentally changed me.
I am so grateful for my children. You see, becoming their father didn’t arrest my freedom. Instead, it gave me a new lease on life that is fascinating, a wonderful appreciation for who they are as individuals, and a respect for parenting that you just can’t get when you’re not a parent, when you’re not there with your kids and for your kids always. It’s a precious gift that keeps amazing me every single day.
Oh, and even though I didn’t know then what I know now, I wouldn’t wish for prescience because the journey is even more important than the destination. And I’m glad I’m along for the ride.