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Becoming a father…3 things I learned from my kids

By Bruce Linton

Becoming a father was certainly the most life changing event I have ever experienced. How prepared was I?  I had recently studied to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. My wife was a nursery RN. I thought I was prepared…

I had gone to a lot of prenatal classes. The birth was amazing!!! But I was not prepared for how the entire rest of my life would change. My book “Becoming a Dad, how fatherhood changes men” shares my story and many of the dads whom have shared their journey’s along the way in my Fathers’ Forum Program.

But in those early years I found the best path was to let my kids teach me what I needed to know. I also found in my Father’s Groups really helped too.  Although us dads were all doing things a little different; we were all having to go through the same struggles. And what I was learning from my kids they were learning from theirs too! And together we all learned to be better students!!!

Becoming a father is the most profound developmental stage in our adult development. Becoming a father makes us into the men like no other experience we have.  Becoming a father matures us and brings out the best of who we are. Sometimes we do make mistakes and embarrass ourselves and sometimes have very bad behavior and unthoughtful actions that we need to improve on.  Here are three things I learned while becoming a father that my kids made me aware of. 

Number one learning that will help from day one till your kids leave home and get off the payroll is PATIENCE. Patience to allow, especially in the early years with all the chaos and uncertainty, just let it be what it is. We can’t control all the unscheduled events that our kids bring into our lives. Like getting teeth and crying all night. Getting colds and passing them on to us. Having leaky diapers that ruining your rugs or throwing up in the back seat of the car. My mantra I teach dads in the  Men’s Groups for Dads with Young Children,” Patience, Patience, Patience…repeat it 1000 times a day. It will lead to enlightenment !!!

Number two learning is how my behavior effects those around me. I now know this is true of all my relationships but I learned it from my kids. A cross look, a raised voice, my own anxious feelings, they clearly were effecting my kids. I don’t think any permanent damage was done because kids are resilient but I did find myself apologies at times for not behaving well.  I did find that my love and concern for my kids opened up a tender part of me and made me a better listener and less reactive dad. I think I began to develop a deeper sense of empathy by watching and reflecting on our interactions. Sharing this with my in my dads groups helped. 

Number three,  by becoming a father my kids made me think of the bigger world in a more urgent way. I was always concerned for the environment; pesticide free food, good public schools and equitable treatment of everyone. I do know we are all in this together on our little plant. But my sense of community became more urgent when I became a father. I needed to protect my children. I want the world to be a safe and habitable place for them…and their children too! So a new sense of community was growing within me. And so many communities they brought me into; little league baseball and girls softball and soccer, being a room parent, helping at the school fair, chaperoning on field trips. The importance of voting for the Board of Education and supporting politicians who were family friendly. Working towards gender equity in the work place and trying to help fathers find ways to balance work and family life.

Patience, empathy and community. I can thank my kids for helping me develop these qualities. They made me a better father and a better man.