Growing into fatherhood has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
Before marrying and having my own children I was not a stranger to being around children. I grew up in a large family with a number of younger siblings. I had several nieces and enjoyed being around them, spending time with them and seeing them grow. But the impact of having my own children was something that I hadn’t anticipated.
While there are many ways in which parenthood has challenged me, and created opportunities for my own continuing development, here are the three most on my mind these days.
Being Someone’s “Person”
When a child is born to you, they are helpless, and rely on their parents for nearly everything. As they start to know themselves, they really come to know you first. In a way you are their first sense of self. You are their safe place, comfort, and their everything.
It has been endearing to have my children adopt my love for grapefruit and green olives. I cherish the moments when I hear our little Brunet tell us he has red hair on his head, or that his “arm hair is thick, so the Moqitos can’t bite” him. It has been instructive to observe that his desire to be like me is so strong that it changes his perception of himself.
This emulation is delightful and flattering, but when I reflect on it, it is a massive responsibility to realize that I am one of the first models they see of how to live a life. This is a responsibility that I strive to fill well, and fail sometimes, but as I work at it, it becomes a welcome weight that grounds me.
Witness to Wonders each day
As an uncle, I would spend time with my nieces once a week or so. I would notice, laugh, and appreciate some of the changes occurring in their world. But as a father, I have come to recognize the incredible opportunity to notice every change in my children’s life, to blend into everyday life and observe without interfering. I have the privilege to watch as these little minds make sense of a new world everyday.
After they are in bed, my wife and I will often share humorous and entertaining experiences from the day. Aside from being there when they wake up, this has become one of my favorite parts of the day.
Poop has lost its Power
If you took me back 10 years I would have vomited if I had to touch poop. It is now a common part of my day. Poop has changed for me ... and poop has changed me. I don’t seek it out, but I don’t avoid it. Poop used to be about poop, but now poop is just a bi-product and necessary reality of the people I love the most.
Whether it is poop, or vomit, or waking up 5 times through the night, or power struggles that push a previously sane me to a breaking point, these are now just part of my life. It’s a part that I would happily trade any day for the opportunity to be a part of my little ones lives.
As I watch how children grow and develop, how they take on new experiences and challenges that stretch them and force them to grow, I think the only time in a person's life that will rival the growth of childhood may be parenthood.
I would sum it up in a couplet my wife helped me put into words.
To nurture a child is to give a gift
To witness a child thrive is to receive a gift