I’ve been a father for six years. Wow. That’s a longer time than undergraduate and graduate schools combined. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere I can remember. It’s longer than we’ve owned our current cars, house, and one of our dogs. In the past six years I could have gone to law school and most of medical school. I could have traveled the world, enlisted in the Navy, or worked in Hondorus. I’m not suggesting those things because I regret not doing them. I’m saying those things because of the gravity those experiences hold, and parenting is right up there.
Although, after six years I still feel like I know nothing.
That’s not entirely true. I’ve learned how to braid hair, make waffles, and apply bandages well enough to have served in the war of 1812. There are also some big things, larger life lessons that have managed to squeeze into my thick skull during this time too.
Lesson 1: My full love for my daughters didn’t come at first.
My love for my daughters has appeared more like a flower growing than like a strike of lightening. At first I felt more like a super-baby sitter, taking care children until someone more responsible and committed would arrive. It’s not that I didn’t love them – I did – but my current level of level is multiples of what it was at first. As they’ve grown and turned four and six years old it’s like I’m seeing love in color and not just black and white. Before my love was like listening to a gramophone and now it’s Dolby Digital with surround sound.
In the beginning I felt quite bad about this, that I didn’t feel that hook inside me to go, do, say, anything for my kids. Now it’s there.
Lesson 2: Kids took time to be fun.
Like love took time, so did fun. In the beginning kids are like a college roommate that just wants to sit around and play video games. Yeah, that’s fun for a bit, but it gets old quickly. With my daughters as babies and toddlers they were not much fun to be around. Now it’s a different chapter to their stories. Now we play basketball and Legos. We watch movies we both enjoy. We watch Mythbusters. They tell bad jokes, make weird noises, and laugh at both.
Lesson 3: Pick your battles.
My sweet sweet children want nothing but sweets to eat. This is fine and I’ve learned to give in to it a bit more than in the past. The hard part about drawing a line in the sand is knowing where to draw it. No smoking, that’s an easy one and it’s hard for kindergartners to obtain a pack. What about food? I’m a healthy eater and I don’t get the recommended fruit and vegetable servings. As a parent I’ve always looked for the universal truths, but have found them harder to find and realize they may not be there at all.
Lesson 4: Embrace the winds when you have them.
One life lesson that I still haven’t learned is that things are never perfect. When I was younger this often meant that the weather was fouling up my otherwise great plans. Now when my wife and I wonder about doing something I’m usually the one to suggest why we not do it. The kids are too small, too tired, too sick. So what. I’m slowly learning that when the wind is in our sails, we go, regardless of the direction. Right now that means our oldest daughter wants to do more gymnastics. It makes me uncomfortable – literally, the seating area there is awful – but it makes her happy, it’s a sport, and she’s good at it. That’s the direction we sail. Someday I hope we change course toward basketball, golf, and running, but I know the ship isn’t going to move until the winds allow it.
Lesson 5: Small things add up (eventually).
Please. Thank you. Yes. No. Clean up your room. My daily sermons are slowly beginning to have effects. Like water filtering into cracks, my words are settling into their brains. It’s difficult to see the long road ahead as a parent. It’s like being on a path that circles a hill and you know that all you can control are the current steps but you still wonder where they are leading you and if it will be worthwhile. The only way to follow that path is one small step at a time.
Lesson 6: The day to day life of parenting has pockets of beauty.
I don’t like my kids all the time. Sometimes they act like children and I forget this. In each day though, there are moments of beauty where they learn to do something or act kindly toward their sister. They have the capacity for a beauty I didn’t know existed.
Those are the lesson I’ve learned so far.