Reflections On My Time As A Father
In 2001 I became a father for the first time at the age of 27. I was reluctant to have kids for quite a long time because I didn't know if I would have the patience to deal with kids or the ability to provide for them. However, on the morning of March 7th, I stood over my son, Chase, laying under a heat lamp at the hospital nursery as he was crying. I placed my finger next to his tiny hand. Chase grasped my finger and immediately stopped crying and opened his eyes and looked at me. It was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had. Over the next few years, whenever he would cry, all it took was holding his hand and he would calm down and realize that everything would be ok. When he wanted attention, sitting on my lap was what he would like to do.
My next son came on April 14th of 2007, just four months before my wife would leave me. My second son, Drake, was nothing like my first son. I liked to think of him as the son of chaos who was born into chaos. At the hospital, he didn't want to stay wrapped up in his blanket or keep his little hat on. He would wiggle his arms out of the blanket and fling his hat off of his head, sometimes as far as five feet away. Drake was difficult to get to sleep because he didn't respond the same to being held and rocked. What he liked was to be lifted up and walked around. Drake was exhausting.
With a failed first marriage, becoming unemployed, and having to move back in with my parents for a time, I felt like a failure to my boys. I wanted them to have everything I had growing up and not to have to be caught up in the drama of an uncivil divorce. I was riddled with guilt back then, but the thing that keeps me going is that these boys will always be my sons. Sure, not everything is perfect, but we are all trying in our own unique ways.
For most people, 2020 was a very difficult year, but I feel like it may have been my family's best year in a long time.
Chase got a job right out of high school at a local factory, and one year later he's the night foreman there. He is more successful at 20 years old than I was at 40. I still worry about him as a dad and love him just as much now as that very first day.
Drake came to live with us that fall and we worked with him every day with his school work and he progressed from failing every class the previous two years to passing every class with a C or greater this year. I still worry about him as a dad and love him just as much now as his very first day as well.
In the twenty years that I've been a dad, I've learned that it's not always about the toys you can or can't buy, the house you live in, or the car you drive. Being a dad is about being there when the times are tender or tough. As a dad, you have to show your children that it's better to think through a situation instead of having a knee-jerk reaction. Being there for your children doesn't always mean that you agree with them or fight all their battles for them. Being a dad is about giving them a hug when there doesn't seem to be any way to win in the current situation. Being a dad is about being able to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
I often think about my biological father who left when I was still a toddler and wonder if he ever thinks about what he missed out on.
More often though, I think about my dad who married my mom and adopted me and I wonder how different my life would be if he hadn't stepped in to do the best he could as a dad.
To all the fathers who realize that they aren't perfect, let's celebrate doing the best we can with the time we have.