Yup. So I’m a dad now.
The last several days have been a blur…and quite surreal. We just completed our first day of being at home at the apartment with Abrielle. We are tired, but we are happy.
So now, since I am a brand new dad, I get to throw some thoughts at you.
When I was looking forward to Abrielle’s birth…I was asking questions of people whose parenting styles and philosophies were ones that I wanted to emulate. The biggest key points that I took to heart (because they were taught to me by parents I wanted to imitate) were: Don’t listen to anyone who gives you a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. Sure, that was a basic 101 teaching, but it was important. Since different children have different personalities, different approaches are required.
But, as I got closer and closer…I came to this conclusion (and I want to see if it holds up). A Christ-like father is nothing more than a Christ-like person who happens to have kids. When I hear bad stories of fathers, it doesn’t seem like the person’s vices as a father appear out of nowhere…their vices as a father come from their vices as a person. Do laid back men become over-controlling fathers? Do responsible men become irresponsible fathers? Do peaceful men bring an environment of strife to their household?
So where I ended up was here…the good news is that being a good father is simple. Not easy, but simple. Continue pursuing Jesus. Continue letting God form me into a Christlike person. Continue this three-steps-forward-two-steps-back-three-steps-forward process of spiritual formation. I don’t need a special strategy…I need to learn to listen to what God tells me through Scripture and Spirit.
Because again…all the fathers who seem like Christlike fathers to me seem to also be Christlike people. If I see them being nice to fun people, but mean to annoying people, then they will be mean to their kids when their kids get annoying. But the ones who can be nice to annoying people…they can be nice to crying, complaining children. They can be nice to struggling, defiant teenagers. And when the child leaves the house, a good mark is left. That doesn’t mean that it guarantees that they will follow God (because it doesn’t), but even if they don’t follow God, they will respect their family’s faith. And if they do end up following God, then those roots in that family environment strengthens their own faith.
How my thoughts have changed, now that I am an official dad
I still have that theory. A Christ-like dad is just a Christ-like person with kids. However, when I got to spend time just looking at Abrielle on the NICU table, my thoughts changed. Well, maybe not changed…maybe redirected. I stopped caring about what kind of dad I would be, and I started caring about Abrielle.
See, before this, although Abrielle was being formed within Sarah’s womb, I hadn’t met or seen her yet. I knew nothing of her personality. So, everything I pictured about Abrielle came from my imagination. What would she look like? What would she act like? As for myself, however, I didn’t have to use my imagination to think of what I would be like. I didn’t know Abrielle, but I knew myself. As a result, I often thought about how I could be a good dad to Abrielle.
However, now that I have met Abrielle, I am way excited to get to know her. To learn about her. I am enjoying the newborn phase, but excited for when she learns how to talk. For when she learns how to explore. For when she meets my friends and actually recognizes them. The thought of “How am I going to be a good, Christ-like dad?” has taken a back seat in my mind. I am too excited about Abrielle. I’m not looking at her thinking “I am her dad!!!” I am looking at her thinking, “She is my daughter!!!” See the difference?
My shot against those condescending people…
Another thought that I have…Sarah and I have both shared, for a while now, an annoyance for those people who constantly speak condescendingly towards the less experienced. “Just you wait…” “Oh, you think life is tough now? Wait until you have kids…” “You have these theories, Carson? All your theories are going to go right out the window when your kid becomes a teenager.” (By the way, they say that before they even hear my theories.)
A lot of people said these same kind of things about marriage. The “just you wait, you don’t know how hard it is until you experience this and that and yada yada…” (the hidden implication is “you don’t know how hard it is, but I do, so bow to my glorious experience and wisdom.”) Okay, maybe I am getting a little carried away. I digress.
But really. Perhaps I am wrong, but let me state my opinion: I don’t think this helps. Perhaps it is intended to help spur people to step up to the responsibility level required to be a parent, before becoming a parent. But what I find interesting is that these “warnings” are not what prepared me to wake up at 5:15 AM just to make sure Abrielle was fed by myself or Sarah. The fact that I really cared about Abrielle is what motivated me, not the “warnings.”
Well, Carson, of course. You’re a new parent. You’re excited. You probably took your wife on more dates when you were a newlywed, too. That’s very possible. Except for the dates thing. We went on way more dates our second and third year of marriage. We were very much less likely to leave the house our first year of marriage, if you know what I mean. But I am getting off topic now.
Sure, it’s possible that I am simply thinking that because I am excited. But I remember dreading the thought of working more than 30 hours a week. Once I got married and had financial goals, suddenly the fact that I loved Sarah motivated me to consistently (keyword) do what I had always dreaded doing. This same love got somebody who basically “got by” in middle school and high school to suddenly take 55 credits in one year of college in order to graduate on time. I didn’t sit down and resolve to be more responsible. It just happened (which I think is evidence of God’s ability to form and empower someone who can’t form and empower themselves).
And as other evidence to bring to the case, my Dad says it was the same way for him. Changing anybody else’s diaper was disgusting. Changing Dawnine’s diaper, or Tara’s diaper, or my diaper was easy for him because our happiness was his motivation. He cared about us, and that care drove him on.
So I do not think “preparing for the responsibility of being a parent” gets it done. Again, just my opinion, although I am speaking it strongly. I do not think “just you waits” help prepare us for the responsibility. Something about us, partly programmed into our minds and partly imparted to us by Spirit, helps us step up to the task.
For some reason, as I understand it, God doesn’t seem to like giving us what we need before we need it. He REALLY seems to like giving us what we need when we need it. So my prayer, half request yet half claiming-a-promise, is that God gives me whatever I need as a parent. Whether I need power, responsibility, discipline, courage, love, whatever, I ask and I also believe that God will provide it.
God, thanks for loaning us Abrielle. Now show us what to do with her.