When I look back at the last 5 years of being a father I can't help but think how it has changed my life in so many ways. While it is true that I have given up late nights in the city with friends and rounds of golf on the weekends, I have gained the unlimited love of two people. To walk in the house from work and be treated like a rock star by two children trumps any party or round of golf that I have ever played.
It is true, as some have voiced, that being a father limits your freedom. I like to take the approach that it expands your heart.
When I look back at my short time being a father and consider the best things about being a dad, these two things jump out at me:
First I am steering the course of history. We all have moments of worry about the world that our children will inherit. Will it be a better world than the one our parents gave us or will it be worst? With all the debate around politics you would think it is the only way to change the world. But in our hands are the votes of the future and through our guidance they will change the world.
Second is learning to love. We all have an idea of what love is but I think until we have to stay up all night with a sick child and then go to work the next day do we begin to grasp what the word love means. Hollywood would have us believe that love is a feeling but as a father I have found that love is a choice. It is when we chose to give up something we have for someone else who can give us nothing in return.
But being a father has not come without its challenges. There has always and will always exist the mundane challenges of being a father; providing for the family, practicing patience, etc… but I think these mask and distract me from the real work at hand. Our kids crave us in their life (even if at time they don’t act like it…) and it is here where I have found the greatest challenge.
First being truly present for my children. We live in a distracted and ever more disconnected world. We interact via intermediaries (IPhone, Ipad and TV screens). And with all the good that comes from this there is also the danger that we become distracted and disconnected from our children even when they are right in front of us. In the early years of our children we are busy building our careers and our children go to bed early so we have limited time during the week to be present for them. It’s a challenge to be truly present for my children.
Finally it is a challenge to learn how to love them individually. Many people are familiar with the Love Languages. And for those who are not, the cliff notes are that different people express and experience love if different ways. For some they express love through spending quality time, other words of affirmation and still other in giving and receiving gifts. Identifying your child’s love language and then working to express love in that way, especially when it is not your love language, can be a real challenge but when done well has a huge impact on them.
Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers!