No No, Dada – This Way

January 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

“Everything in this book may be wrong.” Richard Bach, Illusions

You can draw up a great game plan for your children. But once they arrive in your arms that chalk board of grand ideas gets erased. Actually, the chalk board doesn’t just get erased. It gets shattered in a thousand pieces and set on fire.

Schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

When I first signed up for this fatherhood venture I immediately began formulating grand plans for my future progeny. I wanted twin girls. Yes, you read that right. I wanted twin girls that I could groom into intellectual powerhouses and guide them into adulthood where they would play for this team. They would tall enough like me, look just like their beautiful mother, not date until they were 50, and think their Dad was pretty cool for an old, grey nerd.

When my wife first became pregnant the initial ultrasound quickly confirmed there was only one baby. Ok, scratch the twins thing. We chose not to know the gender of our child until it was born so when she arrived a girl I figured we were back on track. Well, as it turned out she looked like my side of our family. What the…? She had the bluest eyes, my mom’s red hair, and my big, square head. My wife frequently reminds me of that last part when recalling the story of our daughter’s birth and the 24 hours of labor it took to squeeze that head out.

As she grew the hair went from red to light blond and the only resemblance she had to my wife was the shape of her eyes and a relentless stubbornness. If you hold up a picture of me when I was a year old next to one of her the resemblance is startling. It was like a little, female me. (Sorry about that, Doodles.) As time went on she found her own way in the world and I quickly disabused myself of the idea that I could steer her in any particular direction. I have a daughter who doesn’t look like my wife, has no interest in volleyball, and frequently tells me to pound sand. She is the love of my life.

So much for my grand ideas.

OK, Let’s Try This Again

Before our second child was born I imagined receiving another girl. In my head I continued to cling to that grand dual-daughter idea. My only modification now was that they weren’t twins. I can live with that because, seriously, what the hell was I thinking with that twins thing? My “no boys until you’re 50” plan is still on track, though.

Fast forward to that wonderful day last November. I’d been believing daughter all the way and then blammo – a boy.

I will never forget the moment I first held my son. He was wailing at the trauma of being brought so suddenly into a world of light and air. To me I felt like the winds of his cries were blowing away the last of my preconceived notions of parenting. Both of us were dealing with the sudden unexpected change in our lives, thinking together “Holy crap! What do I do now?” In an instant my carefully imagined plans for the life with two kids got erased, pulverized and immolated.

Not to mention the fact that he looked just like my father-in-law. He was screaming at me wondering why I took him away from my wife. Only when I brought him back to her did he calm down. There’s some symbolism for ya.

Putting It Out There

I have to admit I feel bad about that first chaotic moment I learned I had a son rather than another daughter. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me stupidly clinging to my preconceived ideas, being dead wrong, and having to negotiate the sudden turn my life had made.

Maybe at some point in the future he’ll read this essay and feel like he wasn’t wanted, which is entirely untrue. I hope instead he reads this and my words help him to understand what I went through in the time leading up to his birth. If he has kids of his own he may face this same scenario. He will have his preconceived notions, his grand plans shattered in seconds by a frightening and glorious reality. If he has it within him to let go and laugh at himself for believing as I did that he could have some say in the child he receives he will take an important step into parenting.

Navigating the Current

I am two-plus years into this venture and fully engulfed in fatherhood. I see now that parenting isn’t about raising the child you want for yourself. It is about being a good custodian to what is brought to you. Children arrive in your life with a set of genes already in play. They are a living variable and will destroy nearly every plan you mistakenly believe you can make them follow. Now I know this is the way it should be. Having grand plans for your kids’ lives only sets you up for a hard lesson in how little control you have in the world. That can lead to needless frustration and anger.

So, if you find yourself experiencing distress because your kids aren’t turning out the way you planned, just shift your viewpoint a little. Instead of forcing them to follow your ideal, let them lead you where they want to go. You will be learning about the world right along with them and pleasantly surprised by what you discover about them and yourself.

Our world needs more people who are happy being themselves and who are free find their own way in their lives. If you help them pursue their goals and not yours then they, in turn, may have the skills to raise happy children, too.

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Entry filed under: Being Dad. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Dad is a Big, Fat Hypocrite My Child Goes to 11

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