I’m not sure that you’re allowed to have a blog on fatherhood if you don’t post something on Father’s Day, so here goes.
Today is the first time that Father’s Day actually applies to me, as the arrival of the ever-growing, constantly fidgeting 33-week-old baby in my wife’s belly is becoming an increasingly real event. I haven’t blogged about it nearly as much as I had hoped to1, but we are much more ready for her joyous entrance than we were even a few weeks ago. We’ve taken the labor and delivery class at the hospital, we’ve purchased and assembled a new glider for maximum midnight feeding comfort, we installed an area rug in the baby’s room, we put the wheels on the stroller, we will soon be assembling the crib, and Theresa is successfully weaning herself off of her morning sickness medication.
The mental preparations are also continuing, though progress in preparing your heart is less easy to quantify than it is in preparing a baby’s room. Today’s experience of being an expectant father on Father’s Day caused me to once again reflect on the enormity of the role I am about to assume.
It’s a little strange to be a father in the literal sense of the word but to not yet have your child present in your arms on Father’s Day. People seem to go both ways on the issue. I received thoughtful Father’s Day greetings from family2 and several friends today, but also some congratulations on layaway, as if I can’t technically celebrate the holiday until I’ve physically done some…you know…actual fathering.
While I have gleefully embraced the title since we first found out we were pregnant, there’s so much more to being a dad than simply making a baby or assembling a crib. As I glided through my social media feeds today dishing out likes to photos of happy fathers and their smiling offspring, I was reminded of how many truly inspiring fathers are out there plying their trade every day. I’m also sure that what truly makes these men great dads is not necessarily in the curated shots we’re seeing on Facebook today. Being a dad means long hours of work to ensure that you can put food on the table and afford your child’s school tuition. It means leading a scout troop or coaching a team. It means staying home and caring for your children so that your wife can have a career.
It means disciplining your child when all you want to do is give them a hug. It means giving them that hug, too. It means reading bedtime stories when you just want to go to bed. It means giving each character in the bedtime story a unique voice to make your kids smile. It means encouraging your kids to embrace their unique voice and find their unique path in an all-too-troubled world.
Being a dad is knowing when to intervene and when to let them make mistakes. It’s setting an example of faith and love and respect. Being a great father means being a great husband. It means embracing a new vocation and expanding your universe to put your wife and children ahead of yourself. It’s incredibly rewarding, but astoundingly difficult to do well. Perfection is a myth and practice is a necessity.
With all of the above as my goal, I have been consciously studying fatherhood in all its forms for the past six months, and Father’s Day is an apt time to revisit my #40Days40Dads project, in which 40 fathers offered their best words of wisdom on the experience of being a dad. Every entry contains at least one nugget of wisdom that I have gladly added to my own paternal playbook, with the hope that on some future Father’s Day I will feel worthy of this title that I have been blessed to receive, and look back on my thoughts from this first Father’s Day with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude–and as few regrets as possible.