You were there at his birth. You raised him as a child. And now he has become a man and father. As Father’s Day approaches. The true gift is being able to live vicariously through one’s children. I have two daughters’ and a daughter-in-law as well. They all three are outstanding mothers, putting all that they are into their seven total children, all girls. Perhaps on Mother’s Day, I will discuss them, but today I speak on my son… the father.
I watch him now in the same way I observed his soccer games in his youth. While his mother was screaming, “That’s my baby!” I was normally quiet, yet watching his every move. He was an outstanding soccer player, generally the leading scorer on his teams. He had size, strength, and speed. Most importantly he had character.
He generally played over his age group which called for him to demonstrate a little more maturity than he otherwise would have. That didn’t stop him from being just a kid sometimes. In one rainy game, there was a huge puddle in one area of the field and during a pause in the action, for no particular reason he jumped and stomped with both feet in the middle of a large puddle spraying water everywhere. I will encourage his children to do the same.
He was always responsible. Headstrong at times, he could not be punished into compliance, it took negotiation. At various times during his childhood, he had to be given privileges back so that something could be taken away. Even in those times, he was respectful and soft-spoken. I remember thinking, one day you’ll have children and you’ll see! He now has children.
Somehow, seemingly instantly. He gained a maturity I know I didn’t exhibit at that age. He was tall, athletic and handsome (he’s still all three) yet he proved capable of self-control in an environment with options. He handled himself well in relationships and learned from mistakes much more quickly than his father.
I first met his future wife as I was taking my youngest daughter to college in New Orleans, passing through Tallahassee where my son was in college as well. We met at a restaurant and he brought his girlfriend along so that we could meet. He and his sister were as close as any two people in life and they spent that lunch almost exclusively in conversation with each other to the exclusion of the others present. The siblings love each other dearly still, but now his wife is properly in the lead place.
I remember the day he came to dinner and asked if he could see me privately. We went into another room and he explained that he was ready to take a wife and wanted my blessing. He talked of how they loved each other even when they had nothing, and he was certain their love would only grow stronger. He was logical, concise and confident. I gladly blessed the union with no regrets then or now.
Then came the time, they announced a child was on the way. It was slipped into the middle of a conversation and they watched as the news sunk in. I was not worried that he was ready for the responsibility because that was perhaps his greatest strength. He was to become a father.
One day in late November, a call came that they were headed to the hospital. It was way too early, the baby was premature. My own experience with premature children was mixed. I was a premature baby though one would never suspect it to see me now. Another child of mine that would have been a girl didn’t live. Attempts were made to delay the birth as long as possible to give the baby a chance but to no avail. Both of these were on my mind as I went to the hospital, determined to be there either way.
The family gathered in the waiting room. My son was in and out but mostly back with his wife as doctors were making decisions as to how to proceed. Their child was further along than the one I lost and there weren’t the deep concerns about life and death but they were concerned about the development of the lungs and wanted to delay the birth also. Ultimately, not long before Thanksgiving, a small healthy baby girl was born. She spent her first days mostly in an incubator. The baby stayed in the hospital for a couple of days after her mother was released. The parents resisted the urge to kidnap their child and were finally able to bring her home. My son was now a father.
I watched him as a father, in the same manner, I had watched him play soccer. I didn’t tell him what to do but if asked would offer my opinion. Fatherhood was a more severe test of character than soccer ever was. It, like other things, doesn’t create one’s character, it reveals it. Having a child is a test of patience and priorities. It’s a combination of love, fears, frustrations, and incredible rewards. He and his wife have handled them all well. I’m sure not without growing pains but love and faith in God see them through. Several months later, in the midst of another unrelated conversation. An announcement about a new impending birth was made. This one went with less drama and now he stands alone in a household full of women.
My son and his wife have found their own way regarding how they raise their children. They have a partnership with roles. They each sacrifice in different ways. If he were to come to me and ask as he used to after his soccer games, “What do you think?” I would respond as follows:
- Embrace every moment: For all the things you’re striving for. The business you’re starting and plans for your family. Don’t let the small moments with your children pass you by. They go so quickly. Fatherhood is more than the responsibility you carry so well. It is also a joy. Each hug, each time those girls run to greet you. Remember it all because those times are as important as the milestones.
- Maintain your own identity: In addition to the roles you have taken on as father and husband. There must be room to be you. Maintain some separate interests, friendships, and family relationships. A heightened sense of self will allow you to be better at the roles that if allowed would define you.
- Make time for your marriage: Work, children, and other responsibilities will consume 100% of your time if allowed. At least one of your babysitters sees those calls to give you some time, not as a burden but as an opportunity, so feel free to call.
I have no further advice. You’re doing just fine on your own. Parent’s want better for children than they had for themselves. They want their children to not only do well but be well. You have become a wonderful man and Father. I’m very proud. Happy Father’s Day!