No parent is perfect, but I’d like to give it my best shot. Here are 4 things I’m still working on as a dad.
Well folks, it has been a hot minute since I last posted to Walking The Shoreline. What’s been going on with Matt Clark? Where did he go? Why don’t I have any nerdy and/or relationship heavy things to think about in my feed recently?
It’s because we’ve welcomed our second daughter into the world recently and I have been on paternity leave, doing my best to help out with the tail end of the pregnancy as well as ensuring our new family is growing well.
It’s been a really challenging but also a really wonderful time. As any working parent would appreciate, a lot of the best parts of the week for my kids I’m usually at work for, so getting to spend the best of my daytime energy for the whole week with my fam is entirely rewarding. We’ve been settling into new routines, recovering well, going to lots of parks and baking cakes and Playdoh and colouring in and reading days, and fielding all the lovely visitors who have been coming through to see our latest addition.
On the side I’ve had a little bit of personal time to recover from the late nights, early mornings, and newly shaped tantrums. One of my wife’s cousins came over one afternoon and lent me a few hours to go see Oppenheimer (you’ll know I am a huge Nolan fan), which was, amaaaazing.
I’ve been playing a few games mainly with our toddler who has taken a huge liking to the Super Mario movie and so is thoroughly enjoying us playing through Mario Galaxy 2 and Double Dash together. I also picked up a brilliant game called Immortals: Fenyx Rising for a great price on Steam, which controversially is another amazing open world game that is better than Breath of the Wild fused with Shadow of War, Horizon, Greek mythology and a Pixar movie.
Also, the new Ahsoka show is Star Wars Rebels: Season 5, which is fine by me because Star Wars Rebels is my second favourite Star Wars watchable. Amazing.
And some more exciting events like another wedding to MC and some of our international friends being back int he country have been great as well.
But the main bulk of my time is been given to my adjusted fatherhood. Two children and our awesome dog living it out in our House of Estrogen. Clearly I watched and own too many chick flicks or romantic shows to yield male offspring thus far but I have no complaints. I think I’m starting to become Jerry Gergich from Parks and Rec, surrounded by beautiful women to the confusion of all around me.
As many of our friends rightly told us, the jump to two is a lot easier than the jump to one. And it’s a beautiful chaotic wonderful exhausting magical frustrating fantastic time.
And even before the arrival of our second human child, I have really been trying to do my best to be the father and the husband my family needs.
Here are 4 things I’m still working on as a dad.
I always thought I had done pretty well to develop myself into a patient person. Many people I knew would comment on it and say that I was doing pretty well in that area as well.
Add a child and the true limits of that patience was tested.
And now add a second child whilst the first is a toddler, and the real test and refining process is underway. And I’m finding out just where the limits of that patience is, and also where it needs to be.
What’s great about being alive and a parent in this age is how great our knowledge is of how children and brain development progress. Dr Justin Coulson has been a great resource amongst many that I would recommend – more recommendations on that in 7 Great Shows For Toddlers That I’m Grateful For As A Parent, Shifting Priorities Without Losing Them – 2022 In Review and 10 Of My Favourite Baby Products As A New-ish Dad (So Far)
And we now know that a child’s brain is unable to emotionally regulate or understand sharing until at least 4 years old. We know about triggers and fear factors and the perils of smacking.
And we know very well the dangers of an impatient parent.
And I gotta confess, I’m still working on it. Especially with my toddler, who is doing her best to find her limits, as well as ours. This is all normal and healthy, but doesn’t make the stretch any easier. Been doing lots of time in instead of just time outs, listenting and being empathetic, and working out just how hard the line needs to be when those strategies have reached their limit as well.
But to abandon patience as the primary virtue that my kids need right now would be folly. I’m a firm believer in boundaries and consequences for children (and adults actually) but also trying to find the flexibility to allow the breathing room for our family to grow healthy and autonomous as well as they can.
And sending lots of messages to people I know are experts in this area to continue to get the strategies to win.
What being a husband means now
I still believe in marriage. And I still say my marriage is one of the best parts of my life.
But after having a second child in the house, what our relationship looks like now has changed once again.
And in truth, it’s just doing all the things I know matter for us whilst also sharing the love with our dog and our two kids without anyone in the home feeling neglected.
I just need to continue living out who I know I need to be because too many men just want to demand respect and king like treatment as the “man of the house”, without living out the character and servant heartedness such a position requires.
Staying connected and involved
One of the great perils of parenthood is how easy it is to pull back from your community and commitments to focus on your new family unit. And rightly, your kids, especially young ones, need the best of your attention.
But man, I just keep seeing how dangerous it is when marrieds and parents pull away from meaningful community and involvement, and months or years later, you find out some great tragedy has occurred or they’ve broken up or the kids have some immense challanges, and no one else was around to help support them.
We need each other. As the Proverbs tell us, the one who isolates himself rages against all sound judgment. Haven’t we all seen the perils of this in the lives of others? I wonder how many times we need to see it before we learn ourselves.
Of course, the tension then is not going too far the other way either. If one extreme is isolation from community, the other extreme is neglect of your children or spouse. I’ve also seen and known too many people, especially men, who make their children and wife go through hell while they purusue their own empire to the neglect of their family.
Connection and famly in balance. One of the best directions I recently received is to ensure you take your family with you (thanks Pastor Dave for the advice and the example).
Something I’m still working on as a dad is finding what that balance looks like now.
Letting the adults be adults
We are very involved in our church community and have been for several years and have several friends and family across many other spheres as well. In the last one to two months we had to do a bit less as the realities have required, and only in the last two or so weeks we’ve been getting back into it with our family’s current form. And I remember thinking the other morning, oh man, we’ve missed a lot in people’s lives, I wish I could have done more to help.
There are also people in our lives who are still expecting the world from us, requiring us to do everything to meet their expectations whilst they are unable to do so themselves.
And I remember being reminded of a truth I have confronted multiple times in my life, and that is this – all we can ever really do for people is to be helpful in their lives, and there comes a time where it’s time to let the adults be adults.
As offensive as this is for some people in our lives or maybe in your life if you’re in a similar season of adjustment, our immediate priority is our young children and their healthy and safe development. Granted, that still leaves us a lot of breathing room and time to still be able to support others and invest in their lives, and to disappear is not the right move.
But it also has helped confirm the true reality that all myself and my wife and our family has ever been able to do is help light the way, and the number of hours we are able to do so and the distance we can travel at this time is more limited.
We can share wisdom, but we can’t make the right decisions for grown adults who have heard the right things and chosen to do otherwise. We can listen and pray and support, but we can’t replace the function of counsellors or health professionals in adjusting people’s lifestyles. We can help be an active presence in people’s lives and encourage them into their destiny, but if someone refuses to be who they are called to be, then it’s actually on them.
To be a good parent and in a broader sense to step into maturity means that you don’t just have enough for yourself, but more than enough for your kids and for others. If I do nothing to ensure I have the capacity and the capability to be able to have enough for myself and my kids means the young ones are going to go without.
Every instance of poor parenting, bad marriage, poor friendship, whatever relationship it is really comes down to this – that the parent’s deficit is too large that they go looking for fulfillment in their children. That, or the child just goes without. And that is a true tragedy.
The life we require is overflow. Like the tree who is planted by the streams who bears fruit in every season.
Children are people who are unable to take responsibility for themselves.
I suppose the more I watch my kids grow, the more I realise some people never truly grow up and move beyond what is meant to be a temporary state of life, and there’s nothing we can really do now, or even before kids, to make someone else change.
The bottom line is I am responsibile for nothing else but my own life, and the people in my life and in your life are the same. And this time of my life more than any other, it’s time for the adults to act like adults while I need to spend extra time to help the children grow to be able to do so themselves.
And like our toddler, they might kick and scream and cry when you can’t be someone else’s Messiah, but the difference being the grown adult actualy has the capability to do something about it.
And it’s something I’m still working on as a dad.
There’s actually a lot more than these that this season of life is reminding me I need to keep working on, but these are four that are the biggest at the moment. And I would guess that any parent would find themselves resonating with some of these.
I am grateful for such a great community in our lives of generosity and wonderful examples for us to follow. And I never want to become the man who demnads respect from my family without my life demonstrating louder than words why it is deserved.
How about you? Do you resonate with any of these?