I really liked her post, and commented in response: "I learned from my father that it is never too late to start fresh".
Her question has been on my mind over the last ten hours... thinking about fatherhood and what it means to be a good dad.
I will never be a father myself, but I have learned a lot about what it takes to be a great father by watching the various dads in my life 'in action'. Beyond my father there are so many dads I've learned from and admired - my older brother, many of my close friends, former co-workers, my father-in-law and ~ above all ~ my husband.
A few people close to me (my mother, for example) grew up mainly without a dad, and while each of these people have turned out just fine there is no question that they felt the lack of their fathers acutely especially during their childhood and adolescent years... and were deeply sad to miss out on having that relationship. Many of us at this point, now in our mid-30s and beyond, have lost our fathers.
(There are also just a few dads I've known - none of whom I've been close to - who may have sired children but aren't worthy of the title "Father". My friend's ex-husband for example, who almost shows up for the weekends when he is supposed to have custody of his beautiful daughter... and ignores her when they are together. Or, the father of one of my first third grade students (ten years ago) who shot his entire family and then himself. Tragic.)
As a wife and now a mother, I have gained a totally different perspective on fatherhood by witnessing the gradual transformation of my talented husband from a single musician touring the country with his rock band - to the settled, devoted father of three.
In honor of both Father's Day 2011 and my husband, I'd like to share a few of the memories I have of watching my much loved guy become "Daddy".
- When he learned that we were going to have a baby, my husband grew very emotional - nervous, excited, overwhelmed by the enormity of the change. He wept (happy, anxious) tears for about 24 hours. He definitely wanted the baby and to be a dad... but given that our pregnancy was unplanned, it was a lot to digest. He let the news really sink in and permeate his entire self. Within thirty-six hours, he was radiant. "I'm going to be a father!" he glowed to all of the people we told. "I can't wait!"
- After a 60 hour labor, our eldest son was born in distress after having swallowed? inhaled? meconium during birth. An entire team of pediatric physicians was waiting next to my bedside to suction him and rush him to the NICU. Given that I was strapped down and literally being sewn back up, my husband was the first family member our son saw on this planet. He cut the cord and literally ran with the "ped" team down to the NICU. During this time, they formed an instant bond.
- When I went back to work 6 weeks after that delivery, my husband shared all bottle feeding duties with me. Our baby boy was sensitive and cried often, and never slept for more than two hours a at a time for months. (He didn't sleep through the night until he was 7 months old.) My husband and I slept in shifts during this time and my guy spent many precious hours in the middle of the night, watching the Tour de France while bottle feeding our baby and rocking him. Heart-meltingly sweet.
- During that first year of our son's life, I routinely worked 80 hour weeks. My husband switched his schedule so that he could work part time from home, and did much of his software coding work with our infant son playing next to his desk in either a baby stander or laying on a blanket covered with toys and books. Some days he even took our son with him into his actual office. We also employed a babysitter but at least half-time that first year, he was a 'stay-at-home' dad.
- Thanks to my husband's intense involvement in our son's early life, our child strongly preferred men to women as a young child and was what his grandfather called, 'A guy's guy.'. He loved anything to do with a ball and bat, took his first steps in front of his daddy at 11 months old, and went for many a run with daddy in the jogging stroller.
- With the addition of two more babies - a boy and a girl - he has only grown wiser and more patient as a daddy. And though we've switched roles - with him working long hours and me the stay at home parent - my husband still makes as much time as he can to be with his children. He still puts our sons and daughter first, and I know he loves them more than anything in the world.
- As part of his daddy duty, my husband also routinely takes our children to doctor's appointments, helps make their lunches, washes and folds their clothes with me, plays soccer and wrestles with them, reads them bedtime stories and drives them to school.
- While a single man, my husband experienced many adventures of his own around the world. These days, he's dedicated to sharing the joy of adventure with our three kids - and often takes them to do wonderful fun things that require courage and stamina. He's taught our sons how to bike and play sports, introduced them to different kinds of music, taken them on important firsts - like "first airplane ride" and "first swimming lesson". He brings so much fun into their lives!
- My husband and I were among the very first of our friends to have children, and I have noticed that many of his buddies now turn to him for wise counsel and guidance about fatherhood - what it means to become a father, and how to be a truly great one. This fills me with pride, to hear my husband sharing tips about teething, potty training, strollers and preschool. He wears his daddy badge proudly!
If I were to answer my friend's question about important life lessons learned from a father - but in this case, a father that happens to be my best friend and life partner - I would say,
From my husband I have learned that if you truly want to be a great father, you:
(a)Accept the weight and importance of your new role, embracing it for all that it represents;
(b)Throw yourself into the job fully, making sacrifices if necessary to really BE present with your family, and
(c)Never lose sight of the strong love you have for your kids - keeping them in the front of your heart always.
Not every kid is so lucky as to have a natural, adoring dad like this. I thank God for our good fortune every day.
Happy Father's Day, honey!