One of the joys Gareth and I have is our birthdays are a week apart. His will be tomorrow October 8th. It’s a landmark for him because in our conversations getting to 5 is a new phase of growth.
When I saw this picture in Gareth’s classroom during his school’s family, it made me think of a number of things.
First, I’m proud of Gareth … in both big achievements and small ones. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether he’s a achieved anything big at all. He’s four for goodness sake, I simply take joy in any of his masterpieces. I wonder what was on his mind when he did the picture above. It’s most fertile for multiple interpretations đŸ™‚
Second, life has never been the same after him. I’ve been on a roller coaster ride in terms of learning about parenting and most of all learning about myself in the process. It’s not easy to be a good father. At times, I’m on a mountain top shouting … “I’m the king of the world”. And yet, very often I tell myself. “I’m a flop in this”. The rest is everything in between. Fortunately, my son is very forgiving … and thankfully, May Chin and I don’t beat ourselves too much when we fail and we do celebrate little victories. It’s never been the same.
Third, to take it further, fatherhood makes me re-look at human nature again and again. Questions of discipline and boundaries, personal uniqueness and learning to live with others, creativity and commitment, and a whole range of other extremely earthy human struggles. Frequently, the process of parenting becomes mirror not only for self-awareness but it serves as a lens towards understanding human beings. No simplistic answers here, but an ongoing cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning.
Fourth, the reality of one’s limited energy surfaces so very often. Long gone are the days, when we didn’t have kids or when we were single and we could do as we please. Or we go just decide on the spot where we want to go and who we want to meet. Now, we always need to pause and consider the “younglings” – their eating and sleeping patterns, school schedules, our own timetables and how it synchronizes, let’s not forget times spent with the kids. So, in some ways, we can’t spend the kind of time we might want to with friends as we used to. There’s just a change in this (not that it’s bad it’s just different). And a major shift in expectations helps a lot. If not we’d land up sulking in guilt how lousy we are as friends or feeling frustrated we aren’t doing enough. Of course, there will be little glimpses of grace moments we can manage. Let’s not forget our friends also are going through different phases. Learning to revise our expectations is key, Creatively working out new possilities in maintaining and cultivating relationships is a challenge. I wish I could do more on the “friendship” bit, but human limitation means the “fatherhood” bit takes precedent. It’s not an either/or, but often choices need to be made.
Fifth, there are frustrations, regrets and disappointments. The process of growing in one’s fatherhood can be painful at times. Painful because when one is in a pressure cooker or trying too hard to do what one thinks is ideal, we are bound to hit the wall one time or the other. The honest truth hurts at times, but we learn to pick ourselves up again slowly but surely. The healing on one day is faster, on another takes longer. Guidelines, suggestions, advice all are helpful but nothing can replace the personal experiential learning through especially the low valleys.
Ok … I’d do a last one … on a lighter note, fatherhood is still fun. And I enjoy it no matter what. Feeling tired and frustrated, it’s part of the package. And yet, surprises and wonders still abound at the most unexpected moments. Then there’s the joy in sharing in Gareth and Elysia’s joy in their discovery of who they are, the world they live in and the God whom we as a family worship and learn to trust in. That’s fun … those precious gifted moments are true gifts that money cannot buy. Pure grace! I’m grateful for that and then a new surge of energy comes, I can last another day! đŸ™‚