I realize today that I have written almost a year’s worth of articles for Fatherhood Friday and each one of them has been written as an encouragement for those who are already fathers. But there is a large segment of readers of this blog and subscribers to our weekly newsletter that are not fathers. At least, they are not yet.
So, here is one for you guys.
I well remember the day we found out that “someone was going to come to live with us” as my own Dad used to say. It was a day that I will always remember. And, although it was a planned event, I was not prepared for all that it would bring about. So, consider these thoughts, emotions and phases of life as you look to the future of fatherhood for you.
Shock and Awe – I remember the context in which I first heard this phrase. And it was not about having a baby. But shock and awe are the feeling of the day. And the only think that will have more shock and awe will be the day your child is born and you behold that child and consider the potential swaddled inside that tiny blanket.
Pure Joy – This emotion is similar in timing to Shock and Awe. It can occur on both of the days mentioned above. But it is a more calming emotion and one that brings a measure of comfort and peace to you. And then the baby comes home from the hospital and you are pacing the house at 3am trying to get little junior to sleep. But let’s not think those thoughts just yet.
“Don’t Worry, I Got This.” – This emotion and all of the associated expressions of bravado come before little junior comes home from the hospital. The nine months leading up to that day are filled with thoughts of great confidence. You practice diapering a teddy bear and you say to yourself, “Yea, I got this all figured out.” Then, little junior comes home and wriggles and squirms and manages to “irrigate” your outfit while trying to get a fresh diaper on. You fathers to be have no idea what a cool breeze does to a diaper-less little baby boy.
“Uh-Oh, What Have I Done?” – This emotion also comes in the nine months leading up to the birth and it certainly occurs for the next 18 years or so. There is a weight and a sense of responsibility that begins to settle upon us that mothers and other men do not understand.
The Band of Brothers – It is the wise young father who finds another in a similar circumstance and who bands together with him in the hope of gaining strength in numbers. Your son may not turn out with your personality and temperament. You will need some other dads to help you in this lifelong adventure. And if you are fortunate enough to have a daughter, well, you will need someone to watch over the family if you go to prison for what you think about doing to her first boyfriend.
Development – You will spend the bulk of your time in this stage and it will determine how you survive these years. It is in this phase that you will have the opportunity to develop your skills as a father. It is in this phase you will have some of your biggest doubts and fears. You will be responsible for this child that you brought into this world and you will wonder if you are having any impact at all. You will be convinced that you are a total failure. Your own children may even tell you that or act in ways that make you think that you are a failure. But be of great courage. If you are reading this blog and others like it you are not the kind of father that is a failure. You are the kind of father that is steadfast in his love for his children and is steadfast in trying every day to do what is right for them.
Success – Here is where you will find yourself someday. It will sneak up on you. You will begin to feel it when your child marries someone who you know is worthy to be the husband or wife of your child because they have chosen someone with the same values that you have taught to your children. You will feel it when are now “Papa” to their children and they spontaneously say, “Thank you!” to the server at the restaurant when Mommy and Daddy aren’t around to prompt them. You will feel success when you see your Faith and values living on in them and in the next and the next generation.
No one ever said that this was going to be easy. And it has not been. But, then again, it wasn’t all that bad either. In fact, it was filled with much more laughter than tears. And it was filled with much more joy than sorrow.
What was that slogan from the Peace Corps years ago?
It was, “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” I think that about sums it up.