On Fatherhood

A little late with the 2018 introspection considering it’s already day two of 2019 but I’m killing time late at night (or early in the morning) while kiddo #2 is passed out on my shoulder. Which is one of the best moments to have, warm lump content with the world snuggled in and all. This time next year we probably won’t have these moments anymore, certainly not as often.

At a certain point there will be a moment when he’ll do this for the last time but I won’t know it. Sad.

2018 was a good year. It had plenty of moments – new addition of the cat Otis, promotion at work, new opportunities for my wife, fun vacations to the beach and Amsterdam – but it was another year of watching the boys get older, of seeing Sammy be an incredible big brother to Jasper who really wants to do any and everything Sammy does not because he feels it’s his right but because he looks up to Sammy and it’s adorable.

It was another year of fatherhood and reflecting on how it’s changing me each and every day and on how I need to change even more to keep up with it.

I’m sure it’s not a unique opinion among fathers, but being a dad is my life’s work. It’s what I’ve wanted for almost my entire life. And here it is nearly four and a half years along and it’s still an incredible, fascinating, ever evolving thing that never fails to surprise.

My challenge to myself for 2019 is not just to spend more time with the kids, but to waste more time with the kids.

Michael Ricci reflected on how sometimes a busy day can be a wasted day:

What happened? Part of it, I trace back to an obsession with spending time with him. With work and all, sometimes I’m so desperate to make it quality time that little of it ends up being so. Even if we have a day where everything gets checked off the list, it’s usually just a blur. In the car, out of the car. ‘Hold my hand.’ ‘Can’t you have more than two fries?’ ‘No, that’s not our toy.’ ‘I don’t know where Mommy put the wipes!’ Dads worry about this. Pew found that most dads — 63 percent — feel that they spend too little time with their kids. That’s a lot. That’s way too many.

Ricci points to the words of Pope Francis who asked fathers “if they had the courage of love to waste their time with their children.” The pope spoke of children as “orphans” because fathers aren’t there to guide them:

“They are orphans in a family because their fathers are often absent, also physically, from home, but above all because when they are home they don’t act like fathers, they don’t dialogue with their children, they don’t fulfill their role as educators, they don’t give their children, by way of their example and their words, those principles, values and rules of life that they need like bread.”

There is great value in playing with your kids. It’s something that’s easy to forget. Just as playtime at school or daycare is where children often learn what it means to share, communicate, the difference of each child, form bonds of friendship and trust, so it is especially true at home where a child looks to their parents as examples of how to be proper people in the world.

Because just as Jasper mimics Sammy because he looks up to his big brother, both (and especially Sammy) look to me for guidance because they’re learning what it means to be young men in this world from the example they have before them. No pressure or anything.

The other challenge in wasting time with them is to let the reverse happen as well – there is so much for me to learn from them. Not just about being a father, but about being a kid and exploring so much of the world for the first time. About patience. About slowing down because their legs are shorter, because the details are important, or because sometimes they have to ask a third time just to be sure.

Being a dad is at once hard and easy. And daunting and scary and fun. It helps that I have an incredible partner along for the ride and two amazing kids who are helping steer.

It’s my life’s work and it’ll never be finished. And I look forward to using 2019 and every year after to explore what’s in store for all of us.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

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