10 Years in and I’m Still a New Dad
I originally wrote this 8 years ago on Blogger but I still find it relevant.
Despite the fact that my children are 10 and 7, I still considered myself a new parent. Why? Good question. Mostly because I am too busy thinking I knew it all to learn how to parent. I didn’t pay attention to my boys, not in the way needed to learn who they are. And even if I’d put in the effort, if I’d remembered it needed to be done, I would have failed. I barely had any idea who I was then, how could I know who anyone else was?
And there’s the rub. I never bothered to get to know me, to understand me. Is it any wonder I have failed to understand the two people in all the world who most need me to understand them? In response to this failure I have embarked on what will be my greatest challenge. I bested cancer when I was 10. So what? A easy foe to vanquish. Literally I did not even work up a sweat. Compared to this foe, cancer was a light rain on a summer day.
It is time to take on me. To learn who I am and how I tick. I’m back in therapy, committed to the effort. I went three times previously, to two different therapists. Useless. Oh, I told myself I was invested. I convinced myself I really wanted to go. That I needed the help.
Yeah, you guessed it…lies.
Like most cowards I am good at lying to myself. It’s easy. Just don’t look too closely at how you’re feeling or what you are thinking. My lies, like all such lies, thrived in the darkness of my self-deception. It has always been thus.
Boy, doesn’t that paragraph sound pretentious? But, hey, that’s how I write.
Here’s the funny part, though. I did not lie to my therapists. I told them the truth about what was going on in my life, what I thought. Even how I felt. That wasn’t the lie. No, the lie came when I told myself those things. Strange, isn’t it? I was more honest with perfect strangers than ever I was with myself.
Now, though, it’s different. I am learning, with slow and painful steps, to be honest with myself. To understand who I am, what makes me tick, and how I react. And, most importantly, why. What a wonderful word, that is — why. A whole world in three little letters. Such important letters. I suppose my journey, like all such journeys, is about why.
Perhaps if I learn to ask myself why, I can learn to ask my children why. And maybe, just maybe, if I can learn to ask them why, I might be ready to hear the answer.
That’s my answer then. I am a new parent now, after 10 years of becoming a father, because I am ready to ask why and listen to the answer. Sometimes it will hurt and other times not, but, really, isn’t that life? Isn’t that what it is to grow up? To accept the imperfections inherent in ‘why’. To accept, in the end, that we do not know everything, that we are imperfect creatures in an imperfect world and that the only perfection that can be attained is in our effort, and to pass that one lesson to our children.
UPDATE: As I said above I first wrote this 8 years ago and a lot has happened in that time (doesn’t it always?). My wife abandoned us leaving me to raise the children by myself, though thankfully I had lots of help from my family.
My sons have grown in strong, young men, grounded and confident. One is on his way to West Point and the other wants to be a professional soccer player and works hard toward goal.
I no longer think of myself as a new parent. I’m still learning to be a father but I think that’s normal or at least how it is supposed to be. Life is about growth and change; it’s not static. I don’t plan to ever stop learning.
Why…well we are on speaking terms, ‘why’ and I, nearly friends. Like all good friends ‘why’ helps me see what is and not what I wish was. Sometimes I don’t like that but a good friend shouldn’t tell you what you want to hear. A good friend should tell you what you need to hear. And that’s what ‘why’ does — tells me know what I need to hear.
Sometimes I don’t listen to ‘why’ so well and when that happens the path gets rough, the steps painful. But when I listen, really listen, though the answer can be painful, the path, that gets easier and the steps smoother. So I hope you join me in talking to my friend ‘why’. It would like to be your friend too.