Hi and welcome to the Single Dad’s Guide to Life. Yesterday I spoke about how blogging changed me. And as we continue the Perspectives series, Brandi Kennedy of Brandi Kennedy: Love Stories and Life Style for the Undaunted Woman, and I thought we would take the same idea, and make it about Parenthood. Because not only have a learned a ton from blogging, but I have learned a ton from being a parent. I probably learned much more being a parent. And I have a lot to talk about when I discuss how fatherhood changed me.
I suppose, prior to being married and being a father, I was much like any other single guy out there. I had friends who were my world. My thoughts were about what was going on this day, and rarely strayed 15 minutes into the future. In fact, I had a group of friends who came up with a way of handling when we didn’t know what to do. We called it “less thought, more action.” And amazingly enough, it worked. I know I wanted to find intimacy with a woman. I suppose this makes me the stereotypical straight white male, caught up in his own little world, and not focusing on everything going on around him.
This doesn’t mean I never thought about the world at large. I certainly had opinions about politics. And when it came to the world around me, I had opinions about what the role and responsibility of the United States was in the world. But I would always settle back into my malaise. A trip to China, teaching English at various different schools and colleges, rocked my world for months. The world around me seemed to have a different hue. And when I got back to the States, 9/11 would occur merely months later. Even then, wars and politics and personal issues would find me settling back in to my old self.
I would eventually choose someone to marry and start a life together. And while it changed how I lived, it didn’t transform me like I thought it might. A friend of mine once told me that marriage doesn’t make things better or worse. What marriage does is reveal your weaknesses as well as your strengths. And he was right. But having a child went beyond this. It not only revealed things about me, but it forced me to change who I was if I wanted to be the father my daughter deserved. And it did. Having a child transformed me in seven key ways.
7 Ways Fatherhood Changed Me
1). It Taught Me Being Silly Isn’t A Bad Thing
Maybe it’s something all fathers learn. After all, we seem to enjoy asking our kids or grandkids to pull our finger with no repurcussions. But really, we frequently take ourselves so seriously we almost forget what it is like to have fun and be present in any situation. When I had my daughter, I saw the appreciation in my daughter’s eyes when I had the ability to be silly. Magically, being silly allowed me to have more fun with my daughter and in other situations. And then I started asking myself when I stopped being silly. For me it happened in the third grade with some rare exceptions. Peer pressure transformed me as I took more notice of what others thought instead of what I thought. The moment I felt the peer pressure I stopped being silly and stop enjoying myself. Having a child taught me trying to not be silly was really . . . silly.
2) It Made Me Realize Experiences Are More Important Than Things
Aside from the ability to be silly, being a parent made me focus on the things in life which were most important. I know when I was single, it was very easy to collect things in my life. I wanted those things becuase I liked those things or thought they were cool. The minute I ended up having a child, I do have to have things, but only necessary things. And when it came to my daughter, the best gifts were never the things which were given or received. The best gifts were the time I had with my daughter and the experiences we shared. Those things I take with me day after day, not the little trinkets.
3) It Allowed Me To Handle Emergencies Without Fear
Fear can be a useful tool, but far too often it’s a horrible thing which makes us inactive. And when it came to raising a child I feared so many different things. I feared hurting her. I feared screwing up raising her. And I feared not being able to handle things when it got difficult. My biggest worry I know I have talked about before. I had a hard time with vomit. And somehow when my daughter vomited on me I didn’t freak out or get sick.
And when my daughter got so sick she was having mini seizures, and my ex-wife was panicking and not knowing what to do, I didn’t tense up. I didn’t feel like I had nothing to do and was going to feel helpless with my daughter. Yes, I knew I couldn’t make my daughter be well. But I did know things I could do to help my daughter and fear didn’t immobilize me from doing what needed to be done. I just did it, without question, and without hesitation.
4) It Made Me Focus On Someone Other Than Myself
I think for all people we have a hard time seeing outside of ourselves. Every once in a while we can. When we get Christmas presents for others we try to think outside of ourselves. And often we find out how much we gain when we give instead of just receive. But we let that feeling go away and go back to thinking about ourselves. When I had a child, I couldn’t help but think of her all the time. Every moment, I thought about her and how things related to her. I wanted her to know she was loved and secured. And this meant not relating everything to me.
5) Being A Father Reminded Me Of How Magical The World Can Be
Far too often, we see the world and we start to rationalize everything. We cannot see how amazing things truly are because we have been jaded by the world as it is. A car is a car. A baby is a baby. And a person in a mouse costume is just a person in a mouse costume. Outside of the odd trip to Disneyland it became easy to forget how amazing the world can be. When we begin to see things through our kids eyes, we are reminded of how the simple things in life can truly be magical. Whatever you believe, it’s miraculous we are who we are. And our kids remind this to us every day. From peek a boo to going to the mountains and seeing snow for the first time, our kids see the world as one magical act after another. And if you allow it, you will feel that too.
6) It Taught Me To Love Unconditionally, And How Beautiful That Is
Everybody has a view of what love is. And certainly when you fall in love the first time you are swept away by a whirlwind of emotions. But no one prepares you for when you hold your child in your arms for the first time. Love overcomes you. But the crazy thing about love for a child is that it’s far different than any other kind of love you have experienced before. Because this love comes with no conditions. And it always burns brightly. When you feel that kind of love, you cannot imagine love any other way. Or rather, you feel no other love burns quite so brightly. I don’t mean this as a comment on romantic love, but rather a comment on how we should love and how amazing love without conditions can be.
7) It Changed My Dreams And Made Me Realize The Limitations I Was Placing On Them
As a parent, you put your children into all kinds of situations and you want them to succeed. You also do not want your children to feel like there are limits to their dreams. You want them to believe they are capable of doing anything. And if they aren’t, you still want them to feel like the world is full of opportunities for them. Your dreams transform from being about you, to being about your children. You want them to be the best possible version of themselves. So your dreams transform into something knew. In doing this, you begin to realize how you have placed limitations on all of your dreams. And ultimately you become freed up to pursue the dreams you have now. Yes your dreams have transformed. But the dreams for yourself you now realize how much you held yourself back and now are free to pursue them.
Continue The Conversation
Being a father changed me so much. And I have learned so much, it feels like I barely touch the tip of the iceberg here. For the parents out there, I would love to hear the ways parenthood has transformed you. What things you have you learned, and how have you changed as a result? Or if not a parent, what would be your biggest fears about being a parent?
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life