This was my 8th year of being able to celebrate Father's Day as an actual father. It's a cliche to say that time flies by, but it does. We will never be as young as we are today, time keeps slipping into the future, ain't it funny how time slips away...yeah, we've heard 'em all. Anyway, my 8th year as a father and what have I learned? Well, funny you should ask...here are 5 things I've learned in the 8 years I've been a dad:
1. I am powerless against the wants and desires of my kids. I want to make them happy all the time and, much to their detriment and my own, I cave in harder than a mine shaft built by government contractors when they ask for something. Yes, I'm spoiling them and they aren't learning valuable lessons about...stuff you learn about when your parents deny you some candy or a new Barbie every now and then. It's not like I'm always buying them toys and candy or other treats, but if they do get an unexpected gift there is a 99.9% chance I'm the parent that got it for them. What can I say, I like giving them things.
2. Children are literally pieces of you that have broken off, when they hurt that means you hurt. Whenever any of my kids are hurt or sick, all I want to do is make them feel better. When Maddy broke her arm, I was overcome with feelings of helplessness, I couldn't do anything to make her feel better or undo what happened. It's an awful feeling, and my heart goes out to all parents with kids that may have serious illnesses. Those parents are stronger than I could ever be.
3. This is going to fly in the face of the first item I posted, but my kids want my time and attention more than anything else. Yes, they like the gifts, but what they really appreciate is the time I spend with them gardening, or playing, or just hanging out and listening to them tell me about their day. I figure I've got about 3 more years before Maddy is embarrassed to be seen with me out in public, so I want to spend as much time with her before she's ashamed of me...and that's inevitable, all kids turn on their old man at some point...how I handle that rejection will set the stage for our relationship as she grows older. It won't be easy though...
4. There really is middle child syndrome, and I'm trying like hell to break the cycle. With the first born, everything they do is being witnessed by the new parents...their first steps, dance recital...those are all happening for the first time. We used up a lot of videotape with Maddy. We still felt excited when Jossy took her first steps, lost her first tooth and what have you...but those weren't first times for us as parents or me as a dad. Katelyn is the baby, when she starts kindergarten or loses a tooth, human nature means we are going to give those events much more attention and fanfare because she's our last....we'll never celebrate a first day of kindergarten again. I try really hard to make Jossy feel special and make it a point to attend as many functions as possible...but it wasn't until I became a dad that I saw how the middle child can sometimes get the shaft. Oh, the oldest gets hammered as well, we expect a lot more from the 'big sister', but the oldest always knows they are a little extra special...and the youngest is 'the baby'...the middle child is neither, so I'm working harder to make her feel good about herself, she's 'my Jossy', and nothing will ever change that.
5. I'm boring. I love my daughters more than anything. I talk about them every chance I get. Yep, I'm that guy...the one that thinks coworkers want to hear about field day or the songs Jossy's class sang during 'Donuts With Dad'. Long gone are the days of me waxing pathetic about waking up in a Honey Bucket or spinning tales of staying up for two days straight and needing Mecca bloody Mary's to 'get my equilibrium back'. Nothing makes me happier than my kids, even when they are being whiny and needy and throwing a fit in the middle of Southcenter (I'm looking at you Katelyn, you don't know how close you are to staying with grandma and not going to Disneyland this summer!). Like I said, we'll never be as young as we are today, my kids won't be kids forever...I need to soak all of this in so we can all take these memories with us as we grow older. The best times I remember with my dad (or in my case dads) was when they played trucks with me in the sandbox, or played kickball in the backyard...taking me to see Star Wars for the first time. The trips to Disneyland and other destinations were fun, but they wouldn't have meant as much if there wasn't a solid foundation of little things holding everything up.
Little things matter, good and bad, and our actions are constantly being deposited and scrutinized in the great Parental Bank that resides within all of our children...they will remember the heartbreak as much as they will all of the good times, maybe more. It's our job to make sure we don't overdraw the unconditional trust and love they have placed with us. They didn't ask to be born (something I'm sure I'll hear from them more than once), so it is our responsibility to guide, love and protect our kids with every fiber of our being. To me, that's what being a father is all about...well, that and bringing home toys every now and then, sometimes we need the gratification that only comes from being appreciated for bearing gifts.