6 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Dad
- Brent Rinehart www.apparentstuff.com
- 2022 15 Jun
I saw a parenting meme recently on Facebook that hit me. It showed a dirt road riddled with potholes on either side of a small, paved strip. The heading over the first dirt patch was "the early years of parenting." The second rough section of the road was labeled "the teenage years." The smooth area in the middle read, "those smug years you think you are nailing it." Having struggled through the early childhood years and on the precipice of the teenage years, I can relate. Sometimes, we think we have it all together, but we don't know what we don't know.
Parenting is hard work; it is not for the faint of heart. And, no amount of blog posts, parenting books, or podcasts can truly prepare you for what you will experience. However, I've learned a few things as a father that I wish someone had impressed upon me, even though I can't be sure I would even have listened and understood.
1. Your life is no longer your own - and it's amazing.
I used to enjoy playing an occasional round of golf. I would even go to the driving range from time to time. I haven't picked up my golf clubs in probably two years, and I've only played a handful of times in the 12 years I've been a father. In the early childhood years, life revolves around naps and feeding schedules. Later, Saturdays are taken up by birthday parties, soccer matches, and T-ball games. As a family, your schedule belongs to your family. And, that's okay. It's funny how your source of earthly joy evolves over time. The things you used to do in your leisure time don't matter as much. As a parent, seeing your child laughing and having fun is worth every so-called sacrifice. I was never a very good golfer anyway.
2. Every child is different - so you have to adjust.
My first child – my daughter – was a handful. As young parents, I have to admit that we struggled sometimes knowing what to do with her. As a baby, she was colicky. As she developed her personality, she was, let's just say, "spirited" or strong-willed. My son, however, is more compliant. Whereas our daughter questions everything, our son is more apt to be obedient. The point is this: every child is different. They respond differently to instruction and discipline, so your tactics as a parent have to adjust. There's no right way to approach parenting that fits every child. You can't assume because something worked on one child that it will work on another. I've learned this over time.
3. You will never be more exhausted - but it's worth it.
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I'll never forget after our first child was born, some of our friends from church (who did not yet have kids, by the way) stopped by to bring us a meal. Later on, my friend told me, "Man, you looked rough. That was scary to see how tired you looked." It's true; each stage of parenting leaves you exhausted, albeit in different ways. I pulled an occasional all-nighter in college to study for an exam, and I wasn't as physically exhausted as I was as a father of a newborn. I can't imagine how my wife felt, who slept even less than I did. Today, my exhaustion comes more from the mental stress of a busy schedule and pre-teen drama. Yes, it is tiring. Just like a long uphill hike to a mountain view, the payoff, in the end, is worth it.
4. Raising children is your biggest and most important responsibility.
We have a lot of responsibilities in life. We have assignments to complete in our jobs, and we have tasks to finish around the house. But, there are no more important responsibilities than the one you are given as a parent: to raise a child – a fellow image-bearer – and help them understand what it means to be a follower of Christ.
In his powerful book Raising Kingdom Kids, Dr. Tony Evans writes, "God established the family as a conduit of blessing, providing both the opportunity and framework for individuals to collectively carry out His plan in history. In particular, that plan includes the implementation of His kingdom rule, or dominion, on earth. Children are the divinely ordained means of bringing the world under the dominion of Jesus Christ. The reason Satan continually attacks the family is that the family was specifically created as the channel through which God's kingdom would be reproduced, as kingdom kids were raised to become kingdom parents in their own homes."
He adds, "The command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28) wasn't given simply so parents would have look-alikes. Rather, it was given so God would have look-alikes."
5. Dating your wife will be hard, but it's never been more important.
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Parenting can either bring you and your spouse closer together, or it can drive you further away. It provides opportunities for tighter marital bonds, or it can cause countless arguments. That's why, as a parent, it's essential to make your marriage a priority. That means scheduling time regularly to check in with each other, leave the busyness of the household, and enjoy a night out. I admit that my wife and I are not as good at this as we should be. We do schedule a short trip each year to get away and refresh. We also have finally reached a parenting stage where we can slip away by ourselves for a walk or a hike. With busy weekly schedules, finding time to date your spouse is hard. But, you can't be an effective father if you aren't first being the best husband you can be.
6. There's no perfect way to be a father to your kids.
As a young father, I remember stressing out about so many things. Would I know what to do if my kids were hurt? Am I a good example for my kids? What if I fail? Will I be able to provide financially for my family and take care of them? Early on, I wish I had cut myself some slack. There are no perfect fathers – here on Earth. Our Heavenly Father loves us perfectly, and He is who we should draw our inspiration from. He will give us everything we need to be the fathers He has called us to be. The most important thing I can do is simply to be present – physically, mentally, and emotionally – for my children. I won't be a perfect father and shouldn't necessarily strive to be. But I can be there for my kids, and in the end, that's pretty good.
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Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart