Fatherhood vs. Being a Dad
My father had a little sculpture of a boy and his dad standing by a tree and “Any man can be a father, it takes a special man to be a Dad” was written on the base. I first became a father when I was a teenager to twins that we placed for adoption. Those kids are now 22 years old and I am not, nor have I ever been their dad. I know a little about who they are today. I also know that other than my biological role I have played no role in who they have become.
I became a Dad for the first time six and a half years ago and in a matter of months I will become a dad for the third time. I’m not sure if I get a special lapel pin or button in the mail for that. I think that the last two got lost in the mail. It has been an amazing journey so far to watch the girls grow from crying, pooping lumps into little people. At first we were impressed at their abilities to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk and run. Bit by bit their personalities emerged. Now we are impressed by their math skills, French vocabulary, ability to make up songs, tell stories and their continuing development of physical skills. No longer rolling over, but now riding bikes, jumping from heights, climbing and playing soccer. They each have their unique identities and abilities which amaze me.
The next kid will be different. We don’t know if it will be a boy or a girl. Either way I am still going to be outnumbered so it doesn’t really matter. We will watch as this child develops into his/her own person too. It will be equally fascinating to watch how the girls interact with their new sibling and at what point they stop fighting over who gets to “look after” the baby and start fighting with their sibling over the many things children find to battle over. I imagine they will read and sing to the baby. They will want to hold and carry and feed the baby, and they will teach the baby, first through conscious effort and then by example. This will be awesome – so long as they don’t put me out of work.
I will be different too. I will be older and more experienced as a father this time, perhaps even wiser. I had the opportunity to take two months of parental leave with our first and seven months with our second. My current employer doesn’t top-up parental leave coverage so this time I will be on vacation time, which will bring challenges and differences. Luckily I am already a whizz at diaper changing and middle of the night feedings. I function on limited sleep as it is so we’ll figure it out.
Parents are Jerks
Lately I’ve been reminding people of something our physician told us before our first daughter was born. He said “you are about to find out that all the people you thought were jerks are really just sleep-deprived parents.” I have certainly encountered jerks who are not parents, but in many cases he was right. I definitely notice my temper being shorter and my patience being more limited when I am sleep-deprived. Perhaps I have been telling this story to subtly prepare colleagues and friends that I will be re-entering sleep-deprivation in a significant way since I won’t be able to take time off to parent in the same way as before.
I am proud of and amazed by my children every day. They are learning and developing so fast and it is incredible to watch. They teach me patience (or test my patience depending on the day), they help me to slow down and see the small items of fascination in everyday life that I normally walk right past. They ask me questions about all kinds of things that I hadn’t ever considered before. I still haven’t figured out how the meteorologists are able to predict temperatures. I am overdue on getting the answer to that question…
Being an involved dad makes me a better person. I learn more about myself and my world by helping to teach them about theirs. I will always remember what my boss at the time of the birth of our oldest told me and another new dad in the office after we each told him we were expectant dads. He said that becoming a dad was the best job he ever took on. I couldn’t agree more.