This year, though this isn’t my first lap around the Father’s Day track, I celebrated it as the father of two children for the first time. My wife and I welcomed our baby girl in May. First and foremost, I hope all the dads out there had a Happy Father’s Day. Hopefully you took that day to soak in some time with your kids/family. If you don’t love your kids and you find them to be more an annoyance than blessing, well, I’ll come back to this. And even though Father's Day was Sunday, I still have some post-Father's Day thoughts to share.
Some kids have witnessed the passing of their father, and hopefully they were able to celebrate the memory of their fathers. Hopefully everyone reading this has an awesome father in their life, or had an awesome father in their life to celebrate. My father worked hard at a job that absolutely sucked (factory), but helped him support his family well. His willingness to work a factory job allowed my mother to stay at home and raise my brother and I, so I’m grateful for his sacrifice so that we could be well cared for. I have a lot of fond memories of my father, and though it may not be the best thing my father ever did for me, because there are many, I still remember that sunny summer day in the early afternoon when I was 16 years old and my father shouted upstairs to me, “Shaun… get your shoes on and come on.” That usually meant we were going somewhere and, as per usual, I asked where and got the typical, “Don’t worry about it, let’s go.” Such a response could go any which way. I could mean I had to go outside and hold an old mulch bag while he emptied the charred remnants of the burn barrel (because if you clean them out they last longer), or it mean driving down the road and following him back in the truck from a barn where he had a tractor stored away that he needed (because I grew up in the country), or in one such instance it meant, “Get your shoes on, we’re going to go build a deck for 3-4 days.” This day, however, was a lot different. On the way down the road he actually told me that we were going to a nearby city, but wouldn’t tell me why. And, I was a tidbit puzzled when we rolled up in front of the music store downtown. I was a drummer and a few years prior my parents had purchased me a brand new drum set, on which I spent many hours honing my craft, but more recently I had taken to noodling on the guitar. A friend had left an amp and guitar at my house and rather than leave it in our basement, where we made our noise, I took it upstairs to my room. Then whenever my best friend came over to our house to “jam,” I would pick up his guitar and bust out the 3-4 guitar riffs that I knew.
My father put the car in pack and said to me, “You serious about the guitar?” or something to that end, and I, still puzzled, gave the typical 16 year old answer, “Yea, sure.” He simply said, “Okay let’s go,” and he hopped out of the truck with me in tow, and we went into the music store where he bought me my first electric guitar and amplifier.
As I sit and type this, I’m looking at that amp. To this day I still have the guitar and amp and though I never use them (the guitar is stored away in it’s case at my parents house), I could never part with them. There is too much sentimental value in them both to sell or trade them.
But such was the tendency of my dad, and truthfully both my parents. When it came to big ticket items though, dad was a bit more of a pushover at times, haha! My dad didn’t need me to be anything I didn’t want to be. If I wanted to play sports, he would support me. Sometimes even delivering a little tough love about it to motivate me. But, when I didn’t want to play that sport anymore, that was fine. However, when I took to something and he could see the passion in me, he was completely for me. He and my mother knew I loved the drums, so they bought me a set. When he could tell I was way into the guitar, he bought me one. And, now as part of my “job” I earn money playing my guitar and sometimes the drums. His several hundred dollar investment has led me on a lifelong journey and led me into a place where few people land: in a job that they truly love.
So, hopefully your dad was like that, too. Not so much in that he’d run right out and buy you a guitar, but that he supported you both in such a way that you knew you were loved, and that he was for you. Thanks, Dad.
That being said, Father’s Day makes me reflect on my own relationship with my son and the days ahead with my daughter. She’s all of 6 weeks old right now; we haven’t had much chance to really have a father/daughter relationship, you know? But my son and I are pretty close now that he better understands who he is and who I am. And as he nears the age of 3, it seems as though a daily occurrence that I stop and think about his life, and how I father him. It makes me think about fatherhood in general and how although I love my work, the thing that buys all those Disney/Pixar Cars toys for him and feeds him, it’s my “job” as a father that I love even more so. So, if you are a father, or a soon-to-be father, here are a few reflections I’d like to share.
Being a Father is…
Life changing. Truly, it changes your life. Things are never quite the same after you have a child. Ask anyone who has one. How many times have you had the conversation about what life was like pre-kids? It was easier to go out to dinner, movies… anything. It was easier to do anything. Getting ready meant simply taking a shower, making yourself presentable, getting into the car, and going. With kids, however, it would almost seem helpful if you could consult the war department at the Pentagon. You just need a plan of attack. But the change, however different and trying it can be, is completely worth it. You learn to love the hustle and bustle because the in between times, or the time spent after you arrive somewhere, always is worth it.
It’s by far the most important job I have ever held. I’ve worked in a lot of industries in my short 32 years of life: retail, customer support, farming, education, human resources, music, and graphic design. Some jobs I hated, others I have loved (like my current position), but none have been better than being a father. Truly, I love being a dad. My son is awesome and I truly enjoy hanging out with me. I have Fridays off and we go and do the grocery shopping every Friday morning. When I have to go do the shopping and he’s not there, it’s boring and I miss him. Additionally, having been a teacher to more than a few fatherless kids, and walking about my daily life seeing folks who obviously didn’t have parents who taught them well, I see it as the utmost importance that a lead and guide my children well. My involvement in their lives will serve them well and they will grow to become contributing members of society who demonstrate grace, mercy, and love well.
It’s difficult at times. There are days when being a father is difficult. Mostly those are days when my son decided to wake up on the incorrect side of his big boy bed, which is then exasperated by his banana breaking. Or, the days when he is just straight up acting like a 2 year old. Those are difficult days and I must summon up and pray for more grace than typical. I’ve never once, not for a moment, regretted becoming a father or said, aloud or to myself, “I don’t think I can do this…” Never. However, I have at times said aloud, or to myself, “Dear Lord I hope that I don’t ruin this human being.” Because, like I said, there are difficult days.
It’s insanely fun a lot of times. Simply put: being a parent is fun. Not a lot more be said, really. It’s different for everyone, but you do fun things. You play with toys. You watch movies. You run. You jump. You yell. You roughhouse. These are all things you do with boys, but, as I’m sure we’ll soon find out, there are fun things girls get to do as well.
It’s always rewarding. Even on the days when it’s hard, and getting your child to do anything feels like you’re negotiating with a hostage-taker, there is always something rewarding about parenting. Whether you merely made it out alive for the day, or had a great heart-to-heart moment, being a father is rewarding. If your child is blessed with good manners, then it’s a real treat. These are the obvious things, and then there are the less obvious… like watching your children learn. To sit up, to crawl, to walk, to learn words, to feed themselves, to ask questions, to run, to jump, to explore, to demonstrate their imagination. To hug you and tell you they love you when you leave, and run to you when you come back home. I walked in the door one day not long ago, my 2 year old tossed me a toy lightsaber and we dueled. It was awesome. As I was sitting at the table this morning paying bills while watching my Mini-Wheats (because that’s what you do when you have kids, you get them started on the day, then you multitask), my son sauntered out into the kitchen and proclaimed, “We have to feed the animals.” And then proceeded to get the dog food out, give the dog the appropriate amount of food, returned the dog food to it’s place, opened the cat food, pulled out the proper amount, and then had me help him access the cat dish (it’s up off the floor because of the dog) and fed the cat. Super proud dad moment.
It’s not for the self-centered. I cannot speak strongly enough to this point. I think I learned this one pretty quick. If you’re prone to self-centeredness, then being a parent is not for you. If you are that person and are considering having children, do yourself and your unborn a square and check it at the door now. Get over it quickly. Or hold off having children until you can get it out of your system. There is no room for such a mentality when you must care for another life that is so fragile. Children need their parents and there are more than a few moments when your children need you to stop whatever you are doing, however important you may believe what you’re doing is, and take care of them. Sometimes it is a completely legitimate need, other times you do it simply to diffuse a situation that could grow worse if left to chance. Parents need and must be selfless. This is not to say that you forsake your spouse, but that you remain a selfless individual to your children. They need you, sometimes right now, and if you decide that what you want to do is more important, then you’re messing your children up. Fact. Get over yourself, check in the game and love, lead, and guide them well. As a teacher, I encountered far too many students who were raised in households where their parents were selfish and how much it harmed their children. If you are actively choosing to have children, then you are actively surrendering any claim to “me-time” that you presently have. Once you have children, “me-time” is either something that your spouse gifts to you when they say, “I’m taking the kids out for a few hours. You have the time to yourself, enjoy,” or comes before everyone else is up, or after they have fallen asleep. I cannot also stress the importance of parents affording one another breaks, to get out and breath a little before the stress mounts. Be a good spouse and gift each other those periods of time. Outside of either of those 3 instances, “me-time” doesn’t exist. Your children need you, be there for them, please.
Lastly, it’s the greatest adventure. Whether you are heading off on a family trip to someplace fun, or building a tent in the living room, it’s an adventure.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, I’m quite sure I’ve missed a few, so please forgive me if I left out something important. These are just a few reflections that I had, post-Father’s Day.
(Yes, the image above is of myself and my daughter. Our feet, I mean. We took some time to sit on the porch together on Father's Day. Awesome blessing.)