What do you want to be when you grow up?
Looking at this question now, I wonder if any of us really had a chance to answer it? I’m starting to hear it already, from friends and family alike, how child looks like this and that and how adament my wife is about him becoming a swimmer. My lovely wife, she’s a fiesty one, and she gets pretty competitive when it comes to playing board games, running a 10K, working out at the gym, her education, her accolades, and now our baby boy. Fathers, sure! That’s who I hear it from the most! Guys want to know if I’m going to breed my son to play basketball (as I was pretty good once upon a time) or baseball (that too) or soccer (yep) or if I’m going to push him to be writer (still working on that) or a magician (I was terrible), but what I tell them is he’ll decide exactly what he’s going to be…Unless my wife has her way.
What I learned today about being a father:
Kids don’t have choices, they have options. Jackie and I talk about what our expectations are for our child, and I firmly believe that you need them, but as I’m putting our list together I start to wonder if our expectations are too demanding. Not demanding in that they are too much (though they most likely are) but demanding as in how will are boy now whathewants out of life?
Parents are driven to create success situations for our children and to teach them all that we can. I know a few things about sports and could teach child about the sports I grew up to know best, but I couldn’t teach him anything about what I don’t know. I want to be able to open him up to his own experiences, let him make choices based on his interests and preferences so he shapes his life. In my late teens I became pretty independent, made decisions good or bad and was held responsible. It was hard, but sometimes I think what made it harder was the fact that my parents tried to direct my lifes path. There was nothing wrong with their direction, but I created a fork when I was 16 and when my path began to pull away from the path they had begun to build it created immense friction in our relationship.
I look back on it all now and chuckle, knowing that my parents were doing what they thought was best for me and I know my wife and I will do what’s best for Griffin, but will we?
What I think I know:
There has to be a point in our children’s lives when we let them make choices, whether good or bad, so they can learn to take responsibility of their life. But when does that happen? Is there an age that we, as parents, have to let go of the strings, stop trying to build a road that they don’t want to travel down anymore and if so how do we know?
Being daddy doesn’t give me the answers to any of this, nor does my life experience. I know I’m better off letting Jackie talk about the future Griffin is going to have rather than deter her from being the best mama she is going to be. It was only three weeks ago that he joined the outside world, and everyday I watch him change from this incredible, tiny thing, into a small child. Soon he will be a boy and then a teenager and at some point he will become his own man, but I’m scared, even worried sometimes because I don’t want to push him into his future. In a snap, just like that, he will be his own person. Maybe an explorer or a writer, an actor, a scientist or star in his own podcast reality show, I don’t know, but whatever he’s going to be, it can wait. For now, I am enjoying the moment, him being him and me being daddy, and letting mama worry about teaching him how to swim (I was never good at that).
When I look back at the stupid things my dad did I felt very grandiose about the my abilities against the opposition’s. It took less than 48 hours for me to find out that the stupid things my dad did are nothing compared to the stupid things I’m about to do.
What I learned about being a father:
Today I learned that being a father is sort of an extension of my duties of being a husband (which I learned first hand after getting married that my duties as a husband were an extension of my duties as a boyfriend, which were not even close to my duties of being a single guy on my own with no thoughts of being daddy in sight). My wife, the mother of my child, has this new amazing ability to be more attentive to my actions on little to no sleep and take care of child’s every need at the sound of a peep, the smell of a dirty diaper, or the sixth sense that mama’s have if something is wrong with their baby. Without looking at me she knew right away (as if child was watching my every move and tattling on me) that I was doing something wrong. I was chastised from across the family suite when her back was turned to me for something I was about to do that I didn’t even know I was going to do. She caught me red handed about to wash a piece of her breast pump in cold water without the special soap that was sitting right next to the sink, changing the diaper wrong (again, I might add, after the nurse told me I so the first time), and not using the right amount of A&D cream on child’s privates after his circumcision (ouch!).
I, the every faithful, loving, caring, ever understanding, trying-to-be-perfect husband that I am, continued to be mystified by the nature of woman, wife, and mother, all wrapped into one perfect package. Their knowledge of our wrongdoings stems much further than just the bedroom, who’d have guessed?
What I think I know:
Even after a parenting class, reading daddy books, and listening to the stories of my male counterparts about what it takes to be daddy what I think I know is nothing could have completely prepared me for this. I changed dirty diapers with a smile on my face, because that’s what being daddy is all about, but getting it wrong made me feel less of a man, and changed my attitude for the rest of the day.
Being daddy is more about not trying to take the role as mother, rather it’s doing things for mother and baby that we can do best. I thought I knew how to change a diaper and do the little things to make life easier on mama. But what I think I know now is that being daddy is a lot more about doing the things daddies are good at.
Today, our first day home since Griffin was born, bad attitude and all, I sucked up my pride and went back to my duties as husband, expanded on those by helping with nursing in the small ways that I could. With mama’s direction I made a small impact in my baby boys life, did the laundry, went grocery shopping, watched Grif while mama took a break, and assisted in nursing by pulling his little tiny lips down to catch a good latch on mama’s breast. All in all it was a great day being daddy and I learned that the stupid things daddies do are not all that makes us daddy.