What’s it like so far, being a dad?
What’s different for you?
Any new outlooks on life?
These are the types of questions I’ve been fielding for a little while now. Some from other dads, some from older friends, some from younger friends. After many conversations, I’ve honed in my basic responses to these three things: my son keeps me honest, I’m more compassionate and I’m less eager to compare myself to others, for better or worse.
He keeps me honest
Essentially, what I mean is that my son Wyatt encourages me to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I can’t encourage him to be patient and calm and then flip out when he does something I don’t appreciate. He knows when I’m not being sincere.
I don’t want to tell him what to think, I want to teach him how to think: with compassion, with honor, with respect. What that means in practice for a 2-year old is different than for me, of course, but I will be most effective in this teaching if I’m consistent in my own life, even when Wyatt isn’t right beside me. And of course, we all make mistakes, but those mistakes often provide great arenas for demonstrating sincerity and persistence in getting back up again.
I’m more compassionate
Even though I know not everyone’s parents are present or are good role models, everyone has at least one person who thinks of them with love. In other words, everyone is someone’s little boy or little girl. I don’t mean to excuse the terrible things some people have done or whitewash a troubled history. But as I meet people or hear about people, knowing that everyone is someone’s little boy or little girl gives me pause and gives me an opportunity to consider that there is more to us than just our present actions. Someone loves all of us, and I can strive to see others through this lens of love as well.
Disinterested in comparisons
The parenting style used by my wife and I is probably different than yours. Perhaps only a little or conceivably very different. But does it help anyone to throw value judgments into the mix? I’m sure I can learn something from you, and I’m sure you can learn something from us. But as long as there’s no possibility of harm for child or parent, I have the right to persist in striving to be the best parent I can be, without needing to be the best parent you can be.
I remember cringing whenever I read Facebook posts from other young parents, detailing how advanced their child was and wondering if I was doing a good enough job with Wyatt. What helped me get over feeling assaulted with comparisons was realizing that I could take every ‘report’ as simply their way of showing their love for their family, and I could appreciate that.
The beautiful thing about these lessons is that they haven’t been ‘one and done’ deals. I’m so grateful to be consistently learning and growing with Wyatt and my wife. Breakfast time, playing with trains, swimming…every moment is an opportunity to learn together.
And of course, the follow-through of not comparing is that my lessons are not necessarily the ones that you need to pay attention to. Let me know in the comments what you’ve been striving for and how you’ve been growing as a parent and a person – I’d love to hear your experiences and learn from your practice.