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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Father's Day

As father’s Day approaches, I thought I would reflect on a
few thoughts about childbirth and parenting from long ago……

The soft chirp of a bird and the arrival of the sun signal
the start of a new day as my children and I meditate together and practice tai-chi
in perfect unison on an empty, scenic beach. I am part Father/part Yoda as I regularly impart stunning wisdom that my
offspring can instantly apply to real world situations. We eat only what we
need from the land, taking our part in the natural circle of life.  My smart, informed, well-adjusted children and I share the ideal relationship, and our days together near perfection as we
slowly strive for self-actualization and to slowly become one with the universe.  At least that’s how I thought fatherhood would be before I had kids . . .


Abject fear.  That’s what I recall my first synapse contained upon hearing my wife was pregnant.   It wasn’t really a fully formed thought, just a feeling.  Similar
to the feeling I imagine if, in some alternate universe, Charlie Sheen showed
up to escort my daughter to Prom.  It was driven by the self-assessment of my readiness to be responsible for a baby.    I was not confident in my untested abilities that so far had only been so much as responsible for me, and for a few lovely weeks, a goldfish.  My wife Alana, on the other hand, seemed to be ever calm in the eye of the pregnancy storm.  When we got married, I became a
step-father.  I had been growing as a parent from that day on.  But she was
three.  This was going to be a whole other challenge. 
The actual birth? Terrifying.  It’s hard in today’s world not to sit there and think of everything tha t might go wrong.  Is that procedure covered by insurance?  Why isn’t the doctor providing a running
commentary?  But, just like other times throughout the pregnancy, it was time for me to man up and do my part to help her through the birth of our child. After all, she has the hardest part.  As for the birth, I thought we would all sing “Kumbaya” while our child arrived, not covered in blood and afterbirth, but just as speck of light
emerging from my wife or perhaps even floating down from above.  But back in the real world, I learned that life can be messy and beautiful at the same time, a lesson that has only been
reinforced in my life going forward. 

Since that first pregnancy, we have added another child and
layers of complexity to our lives.  We are now responsible for our three kids’ widely varying ideas of what is good.  What my four year old wants to do
my fourteen year old isn’t so keen on, unless we count it as babysitting and
pay her.  We are striving to be good parents by trying to satisfy multiple appetites, interests, and maintain some balance (cookies for breakfast anyone?). Although my confidence has increased, my kids test me in new ways every day.


In that way, I think raising kids can be the ultimate challenge, because parenting is a very inexact science.  Just when you think you have it mastered—something blows up in your face, and you end up thinking perhaps you don’t know anything at all about being a good parent.  Parenting is a messy operation, and there isn’t a single parent in history that is perfect.  It’s humbling in that way.  Kids test you physically, mentally, and emotionally.  They push you to be a
better person, and to strive to be the hero they think you are, at least until
they become teenagers.    They provide their own kind of tough love not by criticizing me or telling me I need to work on my physique, but by the mere fact I know they are counting on me, are part
of me, and the fact that I my actions, along with some help from the miracle of
childbirth, brought them into this world.  Even as they seemingly take, they give. 

Life and parenting as I know it can confound, frustrate,
exhaust, and reward.  It is a mix of many emotions, successes and failures. Instead of our meditation and tai-chi, I find myself shuttling my three
kids to three different activities that happen to start at the same time, only
at three different locations.  But despite the fact that the schedule makers conspire against me (let’s see him get them here on time this week!), we make it work and that’s how we earn our
title.  Not the titles I’m given when I ground my 14 year old, but the title of “Dad”. As the cliché says, “It’s the hardest job in the world, and I wouldn’t
trade it for anything.”  And that’s why on this Father’s Day, I won’t need any gifts. For the ultimate gifts, as well as the ultimate responsibility, were
already given to me on the birthdays of my kids. 


But if a perfectly cooked steak is included in the deal, I
won’t be upset. 





John Pfeiffer is an author and Father of three
beautiful girls.  He enjoys informing,
entertaining, and occasionally getting sidetracked on a philosophical rant with
his readers.  His book, “Dude, You’re
Gonna Be a Dad” is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.