I’ve had all sorts of jobs. Some lasted years, others weeks. Few had any lasting meaning. Most were disappointing and promises the boss made rarely came true. The best job has been the privilege of fatherhood. I didn’t have to fill out an application or pass any background check. I just had to show up—every day, all the time.
Upon becoming a father, I went through a lot of on-the-job training. I decided I would do my best every single day, no matter the interference. I learned early-on, that inside each of my three children was a stubborn, intelligent, and complex adult, if only briefly imprisoned in a small but fast-growing body.
As they grew, my children turned me into a teacher, mentor, coach and humble guardian.
I recall when grocery shopping together constituted their first math lessons. At the same time, they taught me lessons about character. When employment moved us all over the country, instead of complaining about losing friends, they became compassionate experts on cultural and racial diversity. Their vocal humanitarian resolve encouraged me.
The passage of time transformed and redefined the role I patiently played. One day I was supporting a first-time bicycle rider and the next, giving driving lessons. Another day, I’d be sermonizing on the evils of sibling rivalry, again. Years later I surprisingly discovered their simultaneous metamorphosis into loving, protective, respectful friends.
Parenthood guarantees lifelong employment with no experience required. It’s a career with a very steep learning curve and no training manual. Standard operational procedures don’t apply. There’s no room for advancement, but endless perks. My health benefits are satisfactory, yet the pay is straight commission. I don’t know if I’ll ever have much money in the bank, but my wealth has never been in question. Retirement is not an option.
All along, I’ve intuitively felt parenting is very important work. Thankfully, I learned that providing thoughtful support empowers each child to develop a unique, individualistic personality. Nurturing their interests nourishes their lives.
From an early age, I expected my kids to think for themselves. As a result, they haven’t always followed my advice. Yet they’ve consistently done the right thing, even when it wasn’t always easy. Now I ask them for advice. Sometimes I take it.
I never wanted carbon copies of myself. I wanted confident, capable, vital lives for my kids. I hoped they would have strong values, a sense of purpose in life, and joyful experiences.
As adults, they’ve shown me—the only measuring stick that counts is inside.
Fatherhood has given me many prideful moments. Still, the best is yet to come. Having a son and daughter in college inspires me to finally continue pursuing my degree. Just days ago, caught up in a moment of self-doubt, my daughter’s e-mail said it all. “You are a great father and I don’t care what anyone else tells you.”
I believe being a parent is the greatest job in the world!
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