Note from Seeker
In two months I’m going to be a father. I never had one. How do I not fuck this up?
~ an answer ~
You are about to be a parent to a fragile little infant who will quickly become a toddler and eventually a teenager…. Guess what, Dad-to be, you are virtually guaranteed to fuck some things up. You can stop stressing on that right now. It’s an inevitable tide, so grab the board and ride it out.
As a parent, you will make regrettable decisions. You will someday do something that causes your child pain. You will show your child some bad parts of you. You will curse… a lot. Someday your child will glare at you with eyes that look like your own and tell you “I hate you” or “You’re the meanest daddy ever.” Someday they will make the mistakes you warned them about; and plenty you didn’t see coming. They may blame you for all their woes. And no, you won’t be sure how to handle these moments.
When things go awry, you may wonder if you could have handled things better if you’d had a father figure to reflect upon. There may be some merits to having had a good male role model to emulate – but those can be had from uncles, friends and even comic book heroes. Take your pick.
Suppose you had been graced with a present and accountable dad. At best, you’d have some pleasant experiential memories to draw from. At worst, you could have been exposed to a man who was domineering or callous. Even if he’d been a television-style, super-awesome Pops, you’d then have a false ideal to which you can never measure up (because no parent was perfect). I have no doubt that even the best father figure would not have given you a solid guidebook on how to rear your child.
Here’s the thing – None of us know what the hell we are doing when we have a kid. Luckily there are books, nurses, aunts & uncles, and even YouTube videos that can give us the basics: how to change a diaper, treat a rash, test the bathwater… But the love, nurture, laughter, patience, discipline and fortitude part? That is all on-the-job-training.
There are certain threads of similarity to any parenting experience, but no one parent has all the answers. While every child goes through certain stages of development that can echo throughout every home, in any civilization – each child has their own way of growing. Each parent, will have their own way of parenting. You can get the hang of it – our species has been doing it a long time.
As you embark upon this adventure and get to experience some of the amazing and wonderful parts of being a parent, I suspect your heartbreak will come from the realization that your dad missed out on all this awesome stuff. In that – you may be ever the more grateful you decided to stay and be an imperfect dad.
Strangely enough, the most important Parenting 101 lessons are not found in a book, or given by a mythical perfect example. Your most valuable teacher will actually be the little person who made you a parent in the first place. Listen to your child, what they say; watch what they do; figure out what they need – they will guide you.
Last, don’t be afraid to let your kid notice you fail sometimes – they need to learn that people fall and that they get back up. That might even help them cope with fucking up when it happens to them.
Parents, parents-to-be, people who like kids, people who hate kids… well everyone really: Do yourself a favor and watch every single episode of Convos With My 2-Year-Old. You will not regret this.