I always wanted to be a daddy. I just never knew how much it would change me.
I call that first year of parenthood the most rewarding challenge I ever went through. Not that I would have changed it for the world, but I believe most parents understand what I mean.
Naturally most parents think their child is beautiful. Even with a little mushed face and purple foot, I felt the same. I was especially proud of the fact that while my son laid under a heating lamp in the hospital, I thought that he looked more developed than the other babies.
I don't know exactly when it happened, but suddenly I learned a new fear I will never lose until I am gone: In a moment somewhere in time, I understood that I would always wish for the best and fear the worst for my child indefinitely.
It seems as if, in a flash, that the world I had grown up in was no longer predominantly focused on me. My focus was now this baby.
I was overjoyed to be a daddy. I cried at the sight of him, but my mind raced with questions. : How do I immediately love someone that I have no history with? Should I feel guilty that here was this new creature that I love yet don't really communicate with beyond his needs? I wondered who my baby would grow to be.
I found myself watching every breath while he slept, and I would peer into the crib if he seemed too silent. I was beyond gentle, as if this new entity was in fact an ancient artifact as fragile as parchment.
Could I be a good daddy?
Two months after his birth, I was making some sounds and my son looked at me and smiled. In that moment of connection, my heart melted. Still, I wondered: I want to be an affectionate daddy, but is there such a thing as too much affection? Should Mommy be more affectionate than Daddy? I decided to throw caution to the wind. I wanted my child to grow up knowing that he is deeply loved through action and words of affection.
There are parents who essentially try to have their children become what they were not able to become or to be just like them. I believe that is confining. More and more, I find the true gift to my children to be a parent who allows them to discover their own path and support their positive choices.
I've learned that I am not perfect and that I make mistakes, but I am patient. I'm willing to learn as I go, as much as I hope my teaching sinks in. I know teaching isn't just preaching, that setting an example and following through with my word carries more impact. The greatest gifts I can give my two boys are love, guidance, affection, and my attentive time. The gift has been given both ways, as I've gained a greater happiness with myself.
Despite all the trials and tribulations we endure, being a parent can be so fulfilling. The first step is accepting ourselves and loving ourselves as the imperfect individuals we are; share that with your children. In this way, we will not seek the material things in life to find happiness, as we already have it in our hearts.
Being a parent has made me so happy and whole. I have become more forgiving, more accepting, more insightful, and above all, more loving. In all of the things I've done and accomplished, my family is my greatest creation and treasure: the one I am most proud of.
How has becoming a father changed you? What fears about parenthood have you overcome? What goals do you have for your children as they grow? What goals do you have for yourself?