Putting Their Socks On
Nothing changes a boy into a man like fatherhood. You change them as much as they change you. And if you do it well, you both come out better in the end.
But there's a lot of sleep deprivation and missing socks along the way.
When we had our first baby all the jokes were about how we would never sleep again. Now I realize they weren't jokes, they were condolences from people who already knew the path we were just starting down.
I had to do the weirdest things to get that baby to sleep. Like driving it around at 4 in the morning, or running an empty dryer with the baby on top of it (the baby never goes in the dryer, always on the dryer).
Unfortunately, the only method that actually worked was doing squat thrusts while holding them. Squat thrusting someone to sleep? Whatever it takes to get your life back to normal.
At first the socks drove me nuts. They're always off and one's always missing! I'm reading a Bible storybook to my infant and realize, these people don't wear socks. That's it, no more socks!
The definition of insanity is, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
After a week of putting socks on a newborn it was time to stop the insanity.
Or maybe we need to look at it from a different perspective. Before you can go anywhere (or leave anywhere you're visiting), you've got to find the socks. It's a scavenger hunt. Like geocaching, but with socks.
I think we take for granted the life skills that we're imparting when they're toddlers.
Think about going to the bathroom - dogs go wherever they want, imagine if people did too? I don't want to live in that world. But I don't just mean the potty training part.
What about the barge-in? I learned to keep the bathroom door locked as an act of self-defense. Otherwise they just run in full tilt.
Of course, when I lock the door they just try to batter their way in like barbarians sacking Rome.
When a dad teaches his kid to pee, or knock before coming in, it's the first hint of self-control and thoughtfulness toward others in that child.
After the sleeping and the peeing and the socks are under control, the fun begins. You get to show them and teach them everything. You'll be a greater influence in their life than any teacher at school.
The trouble is, those first years really take it out of you. You just want to get home from work and veg on the couch with your phone and a drink.
But while you were working all day they were napping (that is to say recharging). And they return the favour of teaching them how to sleep by pulling you off the couch to play and explore.
And you should appreciate this. Because though you're bogged down with work and bills and grown-up drama, they can make your life exciting and meaningful again.
I remember my toddler dropping the F-bomb for the first time. He heard some teenagers say it and had to try it out himself. Thank God nobody laughed when he said it. When a kid knows he's funny, he'll do the routine over and over again.
The attention we give as dads makes our kids into the people they become.
Sometimes I feel like a tyrant when my kids do something wrong. But considering the fact that they probably learned it from me, I try to think of their screw-ups as a chance to show them the right way of living.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Their teachers and the coaches have it easy. They get to leave at the end of their shift. But we're always on. Our influence is greater than all the others.
Fathers help you become what you need to be. But fatherhood can be devastating too. It's our cold shoulder that makes them drift., or our tyranny that makes them run.
The world is different than when we were kids. They don't even have to leave the house to "run away," they do it through a magic portal in their bedroom. A screen.
A screen that offers endless opportunity. All you have to do is scroll. Just keep scrolling and there is always more.
More games, more pictures, more pins, more drama, more exciting lives than theirs, more devastating comments from "friends."
They used to look up at you. Now they look down at a screen.
The joy that you used to give them when you wrestled or danced together - that went away - maybe you were busy or tired.
Remember when throwing them up in the air was such a big deal? You've got to be that dad again. They don't want to be tossed in the air, but they do want to feel that way again.
Fatherhood is sacrificing yourself to form your kids. To draw out the best in them.
I mentioned screens, but I'm not trying to beat up on technology.
Remember Steve Jobs? He was the tech genius behind the iPhone. The iPhone has transformed the world, it has transformed our relationships, and it has transformed us.
Sometimes I want to curse Steve for giving us something so powerful. Very few of us have control over our phones (because we don't have control over ourselves) - and our kids sure don't.
But Steve wasn't a villain; he was a dad. He understood the value and the danger of the tech he helped create.
I would have assumed that his kids had all the latest Apple technology. But they didn't. He put strict limits on his kids use of the phone that he created. It was never allowed at the dinner table because that was a sacred place for eating and talking together.
It might not be a bad idea to call in sick for a couple days - it doesn't matter where you work, they can manage without you. Call in sick and then take off to some cottage or cabin somewhere.
Just check out from the world and go be with your kids. If they're teenagers you can go through technology withdrawal together. If they're still little, let them inspire you to an exciting life again.