Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thoughts on being a father

As a dad, I have only one job: to prepare my children for independence. Being a dad is one big balancing act between staying out of the way of your child's development and keeping them from overstepping their boundaries. This is somewhat counterintuitive at first, because children start off totally helpless, but it is a role that they themselves help you transition into. Every new development a child makes is a parental test. Depending on what that development is (crawling, talking, trying to eat the ant traps, taking off his own diapers), the parent's job is to respond correctly -- either encourage it if it's something good, or teach them not to do that if it's something bad.

And really, this is a trivial concern for at least the first few years of life, because there are very few things a child can learn to do that are of any consequence at all.

What the child is really doing for these first few years is preparing you. It is the developments they will make when they are older that are significant. As the child grows, their behavioral and physical changes multiply exponentially. Every parent reaches that point in their child's life where they just don't recognize the person anymore. That is the very point I want to avoid. I want to be able to chart every level of my child's progress, by taking an active hand in it.

This is probably a pipe dream. Perhaps some division between the generations is necessary in order to bring about that aforemention "independence" that a child must attain in adulthood. The comfort I can take in this is the possibility that my son will one day have a child of his own, and will begin to understand our relationship from my perspective. Until then, I have to let him be whoever he is.

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