Two months ago I became a father. I didn't feel ready. It’s to be expected - a mix of wanting to be prepared for everything and knowing I couldn’t be. When I held my son for the first time, I had a deep sense of joy that counteracted my overwhelming worry. I constantly feared for his safety and wellbeing. Overshadowing all of these fears were larger questions of my own abilities - my own worthiness of this title of father. Could I set a good example? Could I get better before he needs me to be better?
Over the weeks that followed, a majority of my concerns around his health dissipated. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night to check on his breathing. And after a few visits to the pediatrician, I was confident that he was healthy and thriving. In the same time span, my fears shifted solely to my own faults as a human. Somehow this new life placed in my care brought a huge spotlight to my weaknesses. There was nowhere to hide.
Where was this intense self-criticism coming from? I’d been okay with myself a few months ago, but all of a sudden, I needed to change. Perhaps I realized my baby boy who would imitate my own behavior. All of sudden, I was a role model. That’s the strange thing about parenthood, you have no choice but to be an example for your children. My wife and I are the individuals who will most impact the growth of our child. Granted, I’m probably harsher on myself than he would ever be of me. That doesn’t put me at ease.
I know parenting changes you and I’m feeling the desire to be conscious of how I am. My focus is not in changing what I do — career, projects, and contributions — but who I am — values, principles, and mindsets. And though I may be pursuing my passion and maintaining solid relationships, underneath it all, I am not the person I want to be. And that’s the gift and curse of this new life. Though he can’t understand all that is going on in these early months, when he looks at me, I am stripped bare. Here is someone who will see my for who I am and possibly find his own identity in my reflection. And when I think of that, I have no choice put to continue the hard work of improving myself.
In this process, I don’t seek perfection. I will mess up in small and big ways over the years. Even when he gets older, I’ll still be working on myself, correcting myself and starting over in some areas. That’s part of what I want to model — a sense that even if we aren’t where we want to be, we can admit our mistakes and give ourselves room to correct. The best thing I can do for him to live openly, own up to who I am, and communicate where I’m heading. And I look forward to having my children as accountability partners as we grow together.