We learn a lot of lessons throughout life, and for many of us some of the most important life lessons take place once we've become parents. With Father's Day arriving this weekend, I took some time to reflect upon the lessons I have learned since becoming a father nearly 20 years ago.
It's easy to feel like a responsible guy in your 20s. With a job, a car, and some household bills, how could you not be a productive, responsible citizen? That's how I felt at least, and then at the age of 28 my first son was born, and suddenly 'responsibility' took on a whole new meaning. Feeding, diaper changes, middle of the night cries from the nursery, I had no idea what responsibility truly was until my first child came into the world. Suddenly my time wasn't my own, my money wasn't my own; it had to be shared with that beautiful little boy and all of his pressing needs. Prior to the birth of that child I was less concerned about security than I was about adventure, but after changing a couple of diapers you quickly realize that you owe it to that child to make their life as safe and secure as possible, and that means it's time to really get responsible in all aspects of life.
Are we there yet, Dad? Ugh, how long until we get there, Dad? Daaaaad!! Are we there yet?? We've all experienced it, the impatient child who teaches parents' patience of their own lest they be driven insane. Patience is crucial as a parent – try teaching a kid to ride a bicycle without having any patience. As a father I confess I had it pretty easy with my first son, who was upon reflection a relative walk in the park on the patience front compared to number two, who seemed destined to test every last nerve I had from time to time. He's a wonderfully funny and mature high school student now, but when he was between the ages of one and six or seven, he was what we used to call a 'hell-raiser' back in my day. Whether it was refusing to eat dinner, or he had a temper tantrum at the farmers' market, my youngster made certain that Dad learned some patience.
Every parent has sacrificed something from time to time. Whether it's that dream vacation or dream car, when the kids come along, we parents have a huge ability to put our own dreams on hold in order to ensure we have the ability – financial and otherwise – to raise our children. The interesting thing about being a parent is that your ability to sacrifice grows to the point that it never really feels like you are sacrificing anything because the rewards of parenting far outweigh any benefits we think we might get from that dinner at a fancy restaurant, or from a new car. Like most parents, I often wish I could do more, sacrifice more for my children, and I think that is healthy – we'd all love to do as much as we can for our children, even when they are testing our patience.
The Joy of Simple Things
You can throw together as elaborate an event as you want, there's nothing more rewarding than some of the simple things we parents occupy our time with. You single folks with no kids can enjoy your concerts, you can take off on your road trips, and you can enjoy the latest fashions that you are told you should be wearing, because there is nothing more wonderful than snuggling up with your kids on a rainy day for a Harry Potter movie festival, or an afternoon in the kitchen teaching the youngsters how to work a fry pan. As a father I can truly say that in spite of my world travels, in spite of all I have seen and experienced in life, all of the best moments, all of the strongest memories have been with my kids – from days at the beach when they were youngsters to teaching them to ride bikes to listening to European adventures after three months away from home, the simple things are the gold for us fathers.
The Kids Are Alright
I hear a lot of us oldsters commenting on the younger generations, accusing them of being lazy, suggesting that they lack work ethic, and so on, but from my experience as a parent, and witnessing my own kids and their friends over the years, I think the kids are just fine. The current generation of teenagers and younger are certainly more enlightened than I was at that age, and though my own view is that we've been overly bubble-wrapping kids over the past few decades, they've tolerated it remarkably well, and they are set to explore this world just as we had done ourselves. So kids, don't listen to the crusty old men who want to tell you how much better their generation was – it just isn't true.
To all the fathers out there, enjoy your weekend, soak up some time with your kids and enjoy the simple things that make life worthwhile.