Monday, June 22, 2009

lessons of fatherhood

Photo by pipitdapo

Being a father is a wonderful, and sometimes challenging, thing. Few things can brighten the end of a tough day like the bounding excitement of my children running to greet me as I arrive home. Although I am a relatively "young hat" at this fathering gig, here are the lessons that I have learned so far...

Distractions are a great tool

Credit for this nugget goes to my wife. Very early on, I would struggle to bend my kids to my will. It was a struggle to get a diaper on an uncooperative 1-year-old, and I was not very good at drying the tears of the child who had just suffered the injustice of not getting the candy.

Then one day, I watched my wife hand a toy to "the little pooper" before she started to change the diaper, and I was awestruck at how simple and effective that little distraction was. Similarly, my futile attempts to comfort a crying child by using the "awesome power of reason" were replaced with simple (and powerful) techniques like: "is that a birdie over there?"

Here is the wild part...this isn't just an easy way to keep my sanity, there seems to be a strong connection between self-control and self-distraction. We can't yet say how "teachable" willpower is, but this technique might help improve my children's ability to delay gratification, and that is a surprisingly important skill.

A renewed appreciation for my parents

Becoming a parent has given me a whole new empathy for what I put my parents through. It also gives me a glimpse of their parenting prowess as they interact with their grandchildren. There is something unique about this fly-on-the-wall view that has renewed my appreciation of what my parents gave me. I can't help but be inspired by their patient guidance and boundless enthusiasm.

My parents have given me a, seemingly obvious, realization: Children thrive on the simple interactions. It's not the Ninendo DS, or the trip to Disney that make a difference; it's all about getting down on the floor to play cars, or going outdoors to invent a game with rules that change each time we play. My kids want my time and attention, and I better indulge them before they become teenages who want nothing to do with me.

Joy in the small moments

I live in a country that is very focused on consumption, and progress. The pace of life can become maddening -- the push to achieve more, buy more, do more -- and it is easy to lose site of the things that really matter, the things that really last. There is no cool new gadget or spa treatment that can compare with the joy and peace I get from a nature walk with my daughter. And there is no fatty food or blockbuster movie that gives me the satisfaction and thrills of playing with my dare-devil son.

The way my daughter's face lit up the first time I explained where clouds and rain come from, and my son's toothy grin when he shouts "Daddy" when I come into the room...these are the moments that I cherish, and these are the things that I will remember.

Falling in love with my wife all over again

Not only did my wife carry and deliver these little packages of joy that we call children, she is inspiring me with the love and care that she showers on them. It is an understatement to say that she is making me a better father (and a better person), and I couldn't be more thankful.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.