When I say being a new father makes sense, I don’t necessarily mean it’s a great idea. Not for everyone, for sure. But then again, kids aren’t for everyone. What I mean is that at 40, being a new father finally makes sense for me.
That doesn’t mean I love and appreciate a child at 40 more than I did at 26, or 29, or 37, it just means that I feel more prepared and capable of being a good father. Becoming a parent makes you question and evaluate a lot of things, and the truth is, I lacked the self awareness for honest evaluation when I was younger. It’s only been as I’ve gotten older and made a conscious effort for personal growth that I feel the responsibility of parenthood is one I should be trusted with.
I think a lot of people take for granted what being a parent really means. You become responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing a tiny helpless human. But that’s just the meat and potatoes of it. Anybody can cook shitty mean and potatoes, just like anyone can raise a shitty person. The important part is in the details.
You’re expected to raise a functioning adult, who is a productive member of society.
Well, fuck, I’M barely a functioning adult. That’s where the truth of it all is. We’re expected to raise functioning adults when most of us, to some extent, still feel like children.
I believe that most people don’t live to their potential, and aren’t being the best person they can be. It’s just the way human beings are. Our baseline behaviors contain a lot of fear, anger, anxiety, and selfish behavior. We’re egocentric creatures who are always concerned for our own well-being , even if it’s at the expense of others. You see this play out in the political landscape constantly. Fear mongering and xenophobia are standard platforms for a lot of politicians.
It takes conscious effort to live life from a place of deeper compassion and honesty. Facing our own shortcomings and fears is incredibly difficult, but when we do, we’re able to grow and become better people. Being a better person resonates outward and affects those we come in contact with. And who do we come in contact with more than our children?
Children need guidance to make the right decisions, be honest with others, and let go of anger. We expect them to be grateful and treat others with kindness. Yet at the same time, we don’t always exhibit those characteristics in ourselves. How can we expect them to behave in ways we don’t behave? Children learn by the example they’re shown, not by the words they’re told.
I remember from my childhood the hypocrisy of adults, and how we were told to do certain things and act certain ways that they themselves didn’t. I remember grown ups breaking cardinal rules like it wasn’t a big deal, though they had been ingrained in my head as the gospel. Those experiences are commonly shared, and I’m sure you have your own versions. Those experiences also help create a cynical world view, and at the same time, the corrupt world we view with cynicism.
This is why I feel better equipped for parenting at 40. When I look at what I want to teach my children, I know that I can also hold myself to that standard. I don’t want my kids to lie? Then I don’t lie. I want my kids to be kind? Then I am kind to others. It’s really simple, and tragically overlooked, ignored, or even more often, excuses are used to justify the behavior.
I love all of my children. My daughters are growing into amazing young women, and I’m incredibly proud of their strength and intelligence. I hope that my personal problems I navigated through their early years don’t have too bad of an effect on them, and I hope they recognize the changes I’ve made in who I am as a person.
And I hope my sons can emulate the man I’m becoming, and not the man I was. One day I’ll teach them about that man, and what he had to do to become their father. But for now, pancakes and hugs are enough.