It is the most difficult job I have ever done. I was desperately ill-equipped to take on the role. I was constitutionally unqualified to fulfill the essential tasks of the occupation.
Be assured the difficulty is in no way attributable to the primary subjects upon whom the job was exercised.
The only two human beings on earth who have ever been, or will ever be, subjected to my faltering attempts at fathering, were the most delightful imaginable prospects upon whom any person was ever privileged to practice the gentle art of parenting. They did their best to teach me well how to be a great father; but the skills did not come naturally.
It is odd that there is so little training for this incredible challenge into which we are thrust at such a young age. You cannot pick it up from reading a book and the advice of the “experts” is often contradictory or dramatically different from year to year.
How is a twenty-eight-year-old, hyper-driven, obsessive compulsive, insecure neurotic supposed to summon the necessary skills to receive into his world a new young life and provide the space and support for that young being to grow into the fullness and beauty for which she was created? Good parenting requires skills I lacked when I started out as a father.
It took me far too long to understand, the job of fathering required that I be willing to put another person’s needs ahead of my determination that my own needs, wants and desires should always be considered first.
When I embarked upon my career as a parent, I quickly discovered that I was not the centre of the universe. The small person who came crashing into my world had no respect for my plans and preoccupations. She did not sleep when I needed her to sleep. She messed the pretty outfit in which I had laboured to dress her. She spit up on my suit just as I was about to leave for an important meeting. She did not perform with sweet smiles and adorable sounds on cue. She had no consideration for the momentous enterprises in which I was so busily engaged. It required a heroic adjustment for me to adapt to the reality of this powerful force of nature that swept into my life with the force of a tiny hurricane.
Good parenting is like being a proficient meteorologist. It requires paying careful attention to all the available data. Parenting is about listening and observing. My worst parenting moments have been those times when I have determined I knew the right answers and so have failed to listen carefully to the wisdom of my children.
I understand now that my role as a parent is to support my children in becoming fully the people they were uniquely created to be, not the people I want or feel I need them to be. They were not brought into my life to meet my needs or to serve my purposes. Their responsibility is to grow into the fullness of their being. My role is to pay attention to the inner depths of my children, so they may learn to listen to the deep wisdom within their own lives.
I have failed, more times than I care to admit, to pay close enough attention to the children I was entrusted to parent. I have been driven by my agendas and my need for my life and my family to perform in a certain way.
But, one of the gifts of aging is that I get to look back now on my years as a parent through the lens of the adults my children have become.
So, the most important lesson about the job of fathering I have learned in hindsight, is that my skill as a father was less important than I might have thought. Despite all my shortcomings as a parent, the children I shared in raising have become luminous, beautiful, wise, loving women. I claim little credit for the miracle of their lives and take comfort in the knowledge that I was able to do less harm than I feared.
Perhaps, in the end all that really matters is that, even in my worst moments as a parent, I loved them deeply and cherished the beautiful beings I always knew they were. Love covers a multitude of shortcomings.