When I dive into the pool, I know the water will catch me. It’s a simple law of physics that I enjoy every morning I swim my half mile. The simplicity of that routine is a comfort and a source of rejuvenation, yet still somehow a small wonder. Since my son was born, there have been different waters to part.
I was thirty when Robin came into this world. I held his little hand for the first few hours of his life as he lay underneath some kind of heat lamp at the hospital while his mother recovered from an emergency c-section. I was now officially a father, but my training started almost a decade before when I worked in daycare centers for four years. I calmed fussy infants, changed diapers, cleaned vomit, arbitrated numerous playtime disputes, swam with older kids, and read a significant portion of stories for young children available in the English language. I got a look at the lives of kids and an understanding of their perspectives that you just cannot pay for but which has paid huge dividends to my experience as a father.
So, what makes a good father? It’s simple. When my son has the same confidence in himself that I have in the embrace the water holds for me every time I dive in, and when he has appreciation for the small and great wonders of the world, then I will have done a good job.
Robby’s almost four now. He doesn’t get away with anywhere near what those kids got away with when I worked in the daycare centers and was just learning about what young children need. That’s partly because I’m his Papa, and partly because I found a parenting approach that works for me. I know it’s healthy for kids to challenge every single rule that’s laid out for them. That’s the way we all learned about the world. We have to know where the outer limits of something are so we can test our full potential, and it’s the parents who have to hold those limits. There’s a mantra I tell myself regarding discipline – Be quick, firm and consistent. I believe this will help him learn the ways of both the external world as well as his inner identity.
As for an appreciation of the wonders of the world, well, you’d be surprised at what young children have to say whenever an adult just makes the effort to find out. The simple act of talking to kids while withholding judgment can give you a window into a child’s mind you can scarcely imagine, and from which you can expand that child’s awareness to far dimensions.
No lifeguard has ever mistaken me for an Olympic swimmer, and the common kindness of a dedicated father rarely rates as newsworthy, but I believe that even the littlest of love’s labors are integral to a peaceful world, and I am still inspired by the buoyancy of hope.
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