Guest Post: On Becoming a Father.
Jaide asked me to contribute to her blog, which I of course agreed to. I hadn’t realised that would include contributing my own words, thinking that ideas and suggestions would suffice. ‘Fatherhood’ was the brief, and these thoughts are directed at the dads in the earlier stages of their parenting vocation.
On social media, there is a serious lack of positive attention given to the role of fathers. They are often portrayed as bumbling or irresponsible fools, either the ‘funny’ parent who doesn’t take things seriously or as the disciplining ‘big-gun’ for when Mum’s other tactics have failed. The other description that some well-meaning writers present is that a Dad is the same as a Mum, but with Y chromosomes, some obvious physical differences and the inability to multi-task. That falls well short of the mark. At some point in the life of this blog, I shall return to that point – the role of masculinity in the raising of children and the daily life of the home. But, as this is an introductory post from me, I’ll try to keep it lighter and focus on some of the beginning steps on #howtodad.
Amongst the many pearls of wisdom my father enriched me with, was this observation. It came in the months before my wedding. He said that marriage isn’t the biggest change in your life. I was initially surprised, thinking that nothing else could top dedicating your life and livelihood to another adult. He said that it was becoming a parent. I’m not reluctant (as I have been in the past) to say that Dad was right.
One day, after hopefully not too long standing in the birth suite trying your best to encourage the woman bringing your offspring to the world, you will have the unique experience of holding a completely innocent and defenceless human being in your arms and your heart. The mother has had the experience, albeit in a different mode, for the past 10 or so months. You will look at the baby, maybe trying to lock eyes with them, and many, many thoughts will race through your mind. You might, like I did, make a silent promise to them, one which you will break (unintentionally) and remake many times. And then you take that beautiful person home.
Jaide mentioned the absence of a manual to parenthood. Neither is there one for being the greatest man your children will ever know. You can only try your best, and take inspiration from examples of great fathering you’ve seen. My list, not exhaustive nor in in any particular order, of exemplars are:
My own father, whose patience, fairness, compassion, faith and knowledge of me (and my siblings) continue to inspire me every day;
My maternal grandfather, the memories of whom never lend themselves to anything less than admiration and encourage me in ‘my’ non-traditional roles in the home;
St Joseph, whose courage, faith and humility help me with my pride and fear;
My father-in-law, who has taught me many new skills and given insights into life and parenting, and will be the first man who springs to mind when some presumptuous young buck comes to court my daughter;
My three brothers, who have taught me about fun, respect and protection;
My brother-in-law, who led the way into this dramatic lifestyle change, gives me a heads-up on the possible effects children can have on your lifestyle and frequently inspires me through my struggles of being a dad;
My mates who are dads, encouraging me and making mistakes (so I don’t have to!) that I can learn from, who have shown me that fatherhood does not need to detract from true friendship; and
My Heavenly Father, whose love I try (emphasis on ‘try’) to reflect to my children, because it is what will lead them to happiness.
I wonder how similar my list is to yours. If you have a moment, add one (or some) of your inspirations in the comments. And if there’s something you’d like to read my perspective on, please make suggestions!