(OK, so it's July, but this was written for my other blog and I thought it was worth sharing here, enjoy!) I can’t let June slip by without a post about being a dad. Our family has never really celebrated Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, that’s just how we roll. However, lots of folks like to mark that third Sunday in June, and I want to tell you about my experience.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always wanted kids. Happily my wife and I have this in common. I feel unconditionally blessed and humbled that we were able to conceive with relatively little effort. Despite what they tell you in high school, it’s not usually that easy.
I have two very different daughters. I love them both equally, and to the very depths of my soul. My oldest is 14. She’s a super shy, critically-thinking, amazingly brave, out gay teen. My youngest is 12. She’s more outgoing than her sister. She’s uber-competitive, loves to challenge herself and effortlessly moves through the popular crowds in ways that her mother and I never did. (ok, my wife says she was “popular”, but her class in high school had 7 kids, so I’m not sure that counts) My youngest will belt out a song lyric and lay down a dance move without a second thought, wherever she happens to be. My oldest would rather clean the bathroom than talk to the person bagging our groceries at the store.
How did two such different kids emerge from the same union? I have a social sciences background and lean heavily toward the “nurture” side of the nature vs nurture debate. But there you have it. I have no clue.
Where am I going with this? Parenting is a mixed bag. You have these little beings, helpless and completely dependent on you when they arrive on the scene. Many new parents feel as helpless as those infants at first. It’s a learning curve. Through trial and error we find out what works and what doesn’t for that little human. The next little human that comes along may respond totally differently. Maya loved to be swaddled super tight. She was our little burrito, the less she could move the happier she was. Lydia hated that. She would scream like she was being run through with swords if you tried to wrap her up. Lesson learned, and on it goes.
Parenting is a dance to be sure, but it’s improvisational. It’s more like jazz than classical. Read all the books you want, get all the advice you can, but when that child arrives, and for the next 16 years or so, you have to dance to the tune being played in that moment, and with that child.
It’s cliche to say that parenting is a journey (or a dance for that matter), but I’m going to say it anyway. It fits. One step at a time, never knowing quite what is around the next turn, you move along with your child. It requires a great many things, and none of them are ever quite what you expect. There is one thing I do know though, the only thing you really have to do to be a good parent is this:
Just show up.
Everything else gets worked out along the way.