Six Lessons in Six Years
On the eve of my oldest child, Olivia, turning six, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the things I’ve learned in six years of being parent... Or more appropriately: Six things my kids have taught me.
1. It’s the best
Nothing can prepare you for the awesome-ness that is being a mom or dad. It is simply the best. Now, I know I could say other things are the best, such as being a Christian or being married to my wonderful wife, but I’m getting to the place in life where I am less worried about listing things most important to least (without one I usually wouldn't have the other).
I always knew being a dad would be cool, and it is something I looked forward to for many years of my life... but quite honestly I had no clue. It’s just incredible. Things that used to thrill me are “meh” at best compared to the joy of just being with my family. Because being a daddy is the best.
2. It’s the scariest
As we learned from the movie Spider-Man starring Toby McGuire, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I respectfully submit to you that raising and caring for a human life is the greatest power and responsibility ever entrusted to humanity. Knowing that this little one will pick up my habits, watch my actions, and repeat my words both thrills me and terrifies me. Not to mention as a new dad I was serverely ignorant as to all it took to care for this new life. Thank God for my wonderful wife who knew what to do (or at least pretended to very well) and is always a great example of love, care, and patience to me and Olivia and Julia.
3. It’s hard
Let no one deceive you, being a parent is hard work. I’m not speaking so much to those with older children at the moment (that is hard to in a uniquely different way), but to those with younger children. You will lose sleep. You will have food everywhere all the time. You will wear poop and not know it. You will touch vomit with your bare hands. You will clean up constantly. You will feel judged in public places when your kid screams uncontrollably for no discoverable reason. You will be stressed.
As they get older, you will question your parenting: “Am I being a good mom/dad?” “Am I teaching them right?” “Am I disciplining correctly?” “Am I raising a ‘good person’?”
At some point you just understand that you can only do your best and pray for God to make up the difference. You will mess up and make mistakes. You will say and do the wrong things, but understanding that God loves that baby more than you ever will brings me a lot of comfort.
4. It flies
This will sound cliché, but I have discovered time goes by much quicker as a parent. You will wish for days to hurry due to various stresses and complications the day has brought, but then realize that months and years have gone by so quickly as you look at the changes upon your child’s face and stature. It seems just yesterday I held my baby girl for the first time as I experienced love and joy like I had never before experienced. Just a few moments ago, I remember running around my home playing hide and seek with a barely walking toddler who wasn’t able to find me even in plain sight. If there is anything that has helped me understand the “preciousness” of life, it is watching my children grow, change, and develop as they have. Enjoy every day, every moment, every stage of development and growth, for once it has passed it is gone forever.
5. It changes your marriage
For some, as unfortunate as this is, it has changed marriages for the worst. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, you will have less time for one another, you will find yourself more tired more often, and it will never be just about you two again... But, at least in my own experience, I have grown to love my wife more and more with each passing year of watching and observing her in motherhood. My respect for her and love towards her continually grows as I see her navigate every challenge life as a parent has thrown at us.
This is also an opportunity for share experiences like none other... Before children, we did fun things often. White-water rafting. Water parks. Travel. Late night trips to the movies. Shopping without crying. But loving our babies together has brought us closer to one another than any other thing, event, or experience, we have ever shared.
6. It changes you
Outside of becoming a Christian and giving my life over to Jesus, becoming a daddy has been the most life-altering experience of my life... and I’m not talking about externally, but internally. There is something about learning this new definition of love that changes a person. Olivia and Julia have taught me more about love, compassion, empathy, responsibility, self-discipline, and patience, far more than any book or leadership conference ever has. It’s as if with them in my life, the grass is a little greener, the flowers are a little brighter, and the sky is a little bluer... life is just better. And, I say this with all humility, I am a better me because of them in my life. No other event has taught me more about the Father’s love towards humanity than that of becoming a father myself.
To Olivia on your sixth birthday
Thank you so much for making me a daddy. You bring me such incredible joy every day of your life. Watching you grow, learn, and develop, have been among the best parts of my life throughout the last six years. I’m so proud of you and the woman of God you are becoming. You take love and joy with you wherever you go. You love Jesus, and more importantly, you know He loves you. You are honest, sincere, and kind. You make me want to be a better man, husband, and daddy... I want to live up to the me your eyes see. I love you. You are and will forever be Daddy’s Princess!