Before I became a father I placed a high, if not extreme, value on my time. If you messed with it, I was ready to fight. I had my hobbies and my vices, but my life didn't revolve around either. It was just that my time was simply that --- mine.
Upon learning of the inevitable arrival of a child into my life, I was initially resistant for all the obvious, "how will I afford/manage/handle this?" reasons and also because if kids require anything, they require time. Not only do they require it, they deserve it! I was faced with having to give up that which I consider priceless. This was my thinking before I had my children and instantly fell in love with them. Now that I'm a father with some years on me, I can barely remember what I was doing with all the time I had as a single, kid-free man.
I don't regret the "freedom" that I've traded for becoming a father. I've gained just as much in the process. The key is to get out of the mindset that being a parent, although a very real lifestyle change, will cramp your style. You may have to get creative in order to do the things you personally want to do while being Dad. But if and when possible, you can even include the kids in your experiences. They'll only love you more if you are able.
In losing my time, I've experienced the following:
- Being a protector, teacher and sage to my young daughter. Knowing when to hold her hand and when to let her do for herself.
- Hearing "Daddy!" screamed with excitement when I come home each day and being the recipient and giver of the most genuine hugs in the world.
- Hearing the word "Daddy", knowing the different meanings behind it based on the inflections when it's being said and knowing how to respond accordingly.
- The excitement that comes with bearing witness to and assisting in the fulfillment of my children's dreams. NOT living out my own through them.
- The particular strength and tenacity gained from becoming Dad that no trainer, gym nor any other life experience would have been able to teach or provide.
- Being blessed with the opportunity to continue the cycle: to pour wisdom into a young boy as he quickly approaches manhood, just as my father poured his wisdom into and often onto me.
- Relearning to appreciate the little things, just as children do, because being a parent sometimes doesn't allow you the time or finances to chase around after the big and fancy things.
- Realizing that the "big things" aren't really all that big because some of the biggest things in life are the little ones and not so little ones who call you Dad.
These are just a few of the unexpected joys that have come my way since I became a father. They make the hard work of being a parent feel like a cakewalk most days. And on those challenging days when it's not so rosy I think of the joy, privilege and honor of it all, and then I'm okay.
Have some examples of your own unexpected joys? Please share.