Submitted by Lome A. Aseron
No, it’s not the lack of sleep. It’s not the sometimes-fatal strain on the relationship with your partner. It’s not the visits to the emergency room with a wheezing toddler or the constant re-shuffling of the family budget that was working so well a few months ago. It’s not even the chance to become more intimately familiar with the bodily fluids of another person than you ever imagined.
The best thing about being a dad is that it makes you a better person.
A couple of months in to being a father, I asked my friend, a veteran dad with an 8 year-old son, what he found most gratifying about fatherhood. “You get to burn off all of your bad habits,” he quipped.
I immediately associated his response with a trial by fire, a comparison that resonated with me at the time. Becoming a dad felt like being accused of wasting my life up to that point on meaningless pursuits. All those hours I spent mastering Gran Turismo 3 seemed well-spent, but they didn’t help me the slightest bit with trying to get a 3-month old to stay asleep for longer than an hour and a half.
The pressure of parenting had actually started before my son was even born. When I saw his initial sonogram, the first thought that came to my mind was, How am I going to pay for this kid’s education? Even though he was less than two centimeters long, his amoebic presence sparked a deep-seated fear about my ability to be a successful father. A mere two days into fatherhood, I confessed to my wife, “It’s amazing how something so small can make me feel so inadequate.”
I realized early on that if I wanted to do the fatherhood thing right, I was going to have to change. And so I went about the business of letting go of anything that was getting in my way of being a fulfilled, happy human being. I forgave my father for his parenting decisions. I examined my beliefs around money and success. I tried to minimize my critical, judgmental ways of thinking. I allowed myself to experience a love that, as all parents know, is beyond description.
Thinking about it now, trial by fire wasn’t the right association for my friend’s comment about fatherhood burning off all of your bad habits. Being a dad is more like walking on fire. When you’re in front of the flames, you really have no idea what it’s going to be like, but you know you’ve got to do it. By the time you realize what you’re doing, turning back isn’t really an option, because it’s just as risky as going forward and a lot less gratifying. When you’re done, somehow you’re not the same person you were just a few seconds ago.
It’s only then that you realize that none of it would have occurred if you had walked over cool, smooth stones. Like being a dad, it was the anxiety and the challenge that caused the inner transformation.
Lome A. Aseron is a father of two amazing sons and husband to a magnificent wife. He blogs at NewDadforLife.com and writes for LIFEclectic Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @lomeaseron.