This holiday season our family has been surrounded by our dearest family and friends. During this festive spectacular there has been ample time for Betty to ponder the meaning of or too my life. Now we all know there are many theories in regards to the meaning of life, and each one of us has a different feeling about how life relates to us as individuals. One such couple who I care about immensely has left me befuddled, challenged, and as though there is a damned up reservoir of advice for which I should be sharing. But also with the knowledge opening these flood gates to soon would unnecessarily drown them both.
These two love birds are about to jump off the relationship cliff by getting married. Hurray! We are seriously so happy for them both!!!!
But a topic continually arises in regards to the more domestic side of two lovers joined at the hip. CHILDREN! Should they procreate? Shouldn’t they? How many little genetic markers should they raise? Can they handle the unpredictable, emotional strains friends say children may bring to their lives? Would they even make good parents?
Then the question that always precedes the sigh of frustration; If you were to do it all over again would you still have had children?
First and foremost because they are worried about a future with children shows they care and is definitely a GREAT sign! So many children are brought into this world with no plan, no understanding of the responsibility, and no real physical or emotional commitment. Many times children are born with the best of intentions, until one or both parents hits their first giant wall of emotion without the ability to seek out help or ask for assistance. Then everyone in the family suffers.
This future husband is a caring kind-hearted man with a spectacular sense of humor who values family. He is so worried about this one aspect (children) of the upcoming relationship solidification, and I personally find it to be sweet.
It dawned on me that no man should have to have to worry this much! No one explained parenthood to me other than to say it will happen if I didn’t provide protection! I was only given the generic description of events to come, as in late nights, no sleep, no friends, poopy diapers etc! After our nuptials were completed grief from every family member we ever encountered in regards to when we were going to have our own little clones was all we received! Not one conversation started with general pleasantries or curiosity into how marriage may or may not have changed our lives, oh no! Every talking point was always the repeated squealing of a broken record; when ya gonna have kids (skip) when ya gonna have kids? (skip) when ya gonna have kids? (skip)
So after 3 years of writing this little blog, trying my hardest to share a Fathers side of marriage and raising children, it is time to help a fellow brother out! Give him some cred and lift him up! Let him know it is ok to wonder, it is ok to be scared, and I am here for him when ever he needs me. How am I going to help this man you ask? Well how nice of you to ask! By explaining what being a parent IS and what it IS NOT! Of course this is purely from this fathers perspective. (there might be a few marriage tie inns as well)
WHAT BEING A FATHER IS NOT
Glamorous; No matter how anyone tries to sell parenthood there is nothing glamorous about being a dad. There are no Ward Cleaver moments, Eight really is enough, The Brady Bunched things up for you and its open season on Partridges! Things are quite simply never tied up in a neat little bow in under 20 minutes and 9 times out 10 you can’t fix everything with a hug. You will never be able too juggle your job, after school activities, dirty diapers, runny noses, and the occasional vomit then expect to come home slide ever so carelessly into a $5000.00 dollar tuxedo, expect the misses to look like a Bond girl ready for the taking while you fire up the Aston Martin for a night at the Casino. Martini’s shaken, not stirred!
Easy: Don’t ever believe for one moment you have it all figured out, because if you do, it hurts twice as hard once you realize you don’t! Parenting is hard work, every single second of it is hard! Rewarding, but hard! You can’t just turn parenting off, set it down and go shoot hoops with the guys down the street! Throwing your child in a locked room while you watch Monday night football with the boys down at Hooters is also out of the question! Just because you taped a daycare placard upon the closet door doesn’t make it so! I know you think the kid will be fine, rooms dark, he should sleep and wont even know you are gone right? NO! BAD, BAD, BAD! It’s not even an option moron! From late nights rocking junior to sleep,(that’s right buddy its your job as well as the wife’s) to cleaning everything, fixing scraped knees, doing homework, forcing yourself to actually become smarter than a fifth grader (yeah you will quickly learn your degree don’t mean shit). Parent teacher conferences, rashes, sickness, crazy questions, arguments, sleepless nights, bratty friends, good friends, snobby parents, caring parents, children’s sports, children’s obnoxious sport parents and so on, and so on, and so on… There will be days you will feel so numb from exhaustion you may find yourself at the park napping on a concrete bench only to be mistaken for a homeless man.
Scheduled: If you are a person who lives and dies by your calendar you are doomed my friend! Who needs everything to fit in a nice neat little box of time or emotion anyways right? You will fail and its ok! Toddlers don’t run on a clock trust me! You can have nap time at the same time everyday, but it doesn’t mean you will get that entire block to yourself! And it only gets worse as they get older! Between school and sports you will re-learn the importance of HAVING a calendar while ignoring the time boundaries for which that very same calendars foundation is formed! Layman’s terms? -LEARN TO GO WITH THE FLOW MAN!
Sanitary: In the early days you will clean more strange, smelly substances than an Emergency room orderly! Heck some days you may even have a touch of something spewed, sneezed or wiped, stuck directly to your clothes! (Hopefully your James Bond Tux has a great dry cleaner)There will even be a time when you notice people have begun standing a bit away from you during conversation. Now while you are understandably perplexed by this newly found distance, wondering if it’s a coincidence or not, trust me when I say it is you!
Don’t worry about those people anymore,anyways, because after a while you will stop caring! Also you will quit looking over your shoulders, sleeves or sniffing your clothes for baby remnants! It just wont matter! Around the three to six month phase you will stop caring about the fact you are wearing the same clothes day after day, and the smell of every possible baby stench in the world will no longer resonates within your sniffer! Nope you are now a true entrenched father! 5 O’clock shadow, JC Penny sweats, disheveled hair and all. It is a disgusting badge of honor, it is the first step to never having a real wardrobe again and it will in the end bring a certain peace to your egotastic vanity; so wear it proudly.
Without conflict: You and your spouse will fight over the stupidest things! I know she folds the towels all wrong and refuses to turn off the bathroom light! But believe me the fights will reach a new level of stupidity! Rivaling a group of ten-year old boys engaging in verbal judo on the ball field! Yes you two are best friends, the two amigos, this is your best bud, your party girl, the woman who drinks beer one night like the boys then classes it up in a knock out dress while caressing a glass of wine the next! But put a bun in that oven and all bets are off! Her body morphs faster than a Decepticon, her opinions change by the minute, her maternal instincts take over, the baby begins sucking the life out of her and blam! Your ship of freedom has sailed! You being the stubborn man you are continue searching for your lost buddy with boobs, your amigo, your sex with my best friend high-five afterwards partner in crime! But guess what pally? That ship has sailed! Blame it on exhaustion, brooding, misunderstandings, low blood sugar, what ever! Having a child will test the very meddle that is your relationship!She is still there, trust me, and you will find a whole new beauty to the woman you love, but get ready to shed your former life. I know it sounds bad right now, but it is so worth it in the end.
There will also be times where your parenting is nowhere near on the same page, when the two of you will become ships in the night, passing casually from time to time with nothing more than a horn for bellowing at each other. You will feel at times disconnected from one another. It sucks! It really sucks but it is the way it is! You can put each other first, put the children first, do what ever it takes or do nothing at all, but you will need to figure out how to raise this child together and you will need to work on your relationship all the time! If you don’t, you will suffer and so will your children. There will also be conflict as your children become teenagers. It’s what I call “poking the bear”and you better be ready! Oh they start poking the bear early on, challenging your parental authority, your patience, your mental acuity and your ability to recover. But it really hits hard once that nasty angry, hormone raging, puberty comes around. I have found over time that anger and yelling is definitely not the answer when dealing with this teenage metamorphosis. Staying firm and direct always wins when dealing with untamed emotions! Teaching your children to have a good sense of humor about their minor transgressions is also a good thing. There is an old saying I have plagiarized for years; He who yells first looses. They can be absolutely disrespectful little shits that you want to beat within an inch of their lives as venom spews from their massive unrestricted pies holes. But staying calm while talking with a very firm almost terrifying tone wins each and every time. Once things have settled down, talking about what they were trying to accomplish also helps their young minds expand and become one with a future in adulthood. Teenagers have wild emotional swings that are really not their fault, if we as parents can remain calm both parties win.
WHAT A BEING A FATHER IS
Humbling: I don’t care how tough you think you are, how many bullets you took in a gangland rumble, shrapnel from Afghanistan, bucking broncs you rode at NFR, Harley s you’ve built, Bulls you wrestled! MMA fighter, Doctor, scientist, Police Officer, Fireman, Garbage man, banker or lawyer. I don’t care if you are this years Nobel Peace Prize recipient! The moment you hold a child, your child for the very first time, unless you are a piece of shit heartless bastard it will bring you to tears. Look into the face of that little wrinkled, pale, writhing, shaking life that now depends on you. That’s right buddy this human is a part of YOU! A baby’s cooing will make even the strongest mans knees buckle. That emotion never changes either. I cried just as hard as the day he was born on the day he left for college, you see in my eyes this one child had taken everything there was to give and now off into the world he went. I was spent, I was proud, I was filled with love, I was humbled by what God had entrusted me and my wife with. A life…
Full of mistakes: Hey big shot guess what? You are not perfect! Sure you scored four touch downs in a single high school game, went to college on scholarship, dated the homecoming queen, and now own the most successful flooring business in the tri-state area! Being a father is all about making mistakes and you sir are going to make them whether you like it or not! You are going to make huge, gigantic and at times what feels like irreversible mistakes! SO WHAT!!!! Do you know what separates the good dads from the bad ones? The ability to recognize those mistakes and act accordingly! Everything you have accomplished in life to this point doesn’t mean shit! You are now the CEO of a new company! Corporations have merged creating a new entity and you need to give this start-up 100%! These people we bring into this world learn by watching and they are watching from the very minute they are born. If you act like an ass don’t question why your kid acts like an ass! If you treat people like shit expect the very same in return as they grow older. If you continually show compassion, empathy, creativity, solid ethics and an ability to communicate effectively you, your wife, and your children will all win! You wont always be perfect at it, but winners you will become. I have said this before many times but learning to say you’re sorry when you are wrong, sometimes even when you don’t feel as though you should apologize and your child will grow doing exactly the same. Being a dad is about setting a good example, but that example is not set by being perfect. It is set by being perfectly honest with yourself.
Rewarding: For every twenty set backs to your selfish life. (of course you didn’t know you were selfish until you had kids and your wife points it out to you. Over and over and over again) There are those moments. Moments that will stay with you forever. Moments that stir emotions within a man suppressed by modern-day society. Moments like the first time I saw my child walk on his own. Or when they draw you a picture and write; daddy I love you on it. When they climb in bed with you in the middle of the night or laugh at your impressions while reading a story. The first time they ride a bike, or sing on stage and to you looks like Travis Pastrana jumping buses or sounds like angels harmonizing in heaven. A solo with the clarinet, your daughter who was terrified riding a horse, now doing so with perfection and loving it! Letting them catch-all the fish on a day trip or helping them tie their shoes. It’s all the little things that make up the day. Its remembering not to let your shitty day fall upon their tiny shoulders because their hearts are so big they will gladly carry that burden for you without even knowing they are doing it. Coloring, legos, playing on the swing-set or jumping on the trampoline with them. Camping, smores and scary ghost stories. Watching them grow and evolve, change shape and voice tone. I once came across an old voice mail as we were changing out the system in my firehouse. It was my 14-year-old when he was 8. The sound of his little voice politely asking my voice mail for his dad to answer the phone please had me bawling like a baby. I hadn’t realized just how much this child had transitioned to almost man status until I heard the lost squeaky voice of his prepubescent age. It is still getting a hug and an; I love you dad, after they’ve turned 18. For all the freedoms given up, conquests never taken, and selfish time disappeared there isn’t a moment I would trade, a second I would change or give up, for five minutes of being surrounded and loved by my children.
To my friend, I hope this helps your decision, I hope it made you laugh and puts you at ease.
If Love conquers all… Loving your children is the greatest reward.