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The Best Times of My Life

The Best Times of My Life

My oldest son just turned five years old. While reflecting on the last five years, it is very clear that my son has brought tremendous joy and fun into my life and I’m extremely grateful for it.

Our boys are 2 and 5 and they are starting to play together. What I love is that they really get excited for all kinds of different adventures. Even, if it’s just heading into the backyard with a shovel in hand. Recently I was talking with my mom about the stage of parenting that we are currently entering.

When my sisters and I were young, my parents would regularly put us all in a van, with friends, and travel a few hundred miles south to Lake Cumberland, KY for some boating and recreation. It must have been a ton of work for my parents, who were both working full-time jobs. They had to coordinate with our schedules, communicate with our friends’ parents, grocery shop, pack suitcases and boxes of food, pack the van with 8 people and all weekend luggage and supplies, and drive 3-4 hours to get there.

Then while we were there, they had to clean the house and the boat, make sure we the proper life jackets and safety equipment on the boat. They had to make beds and cook all the meals, do all the dishes, repair the house as we did our usual wear and tear that only 6 kids can do. They paid for everything, gas, food, games, boat gear, activities in the car.

And this, my mom says was the best time of her life.

With the ability to reflect on a few years of my oldest son’s childhood, it is very clear to me why my mom feels this way. Children have the ability to bring immense joy into our lives. And while they require a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, nothing else is nearly rewarding.

My mother has had some significant adversity at various stages of her life, and this middle aged phase that she reflects on with such fondness was no different. She and my father worked their tail off and sacrificed a ton to give us children an absolutely tremendous, joyful, adventure filled childhood.

The hardest things, closest to your highest values in life, are the most rewarding. Parenthood offers this tremendous opportunity. 40 years later, I’m pretty confident that nothing else in this world brings my parents more joy than spending time with their children and their families.

Last night, my wife and I asked our oldest son what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner and gave him some ideas to get him thinking. Without hesitation he wanted to invite his grandparents over for a pizza dinner. So we called, and they came with joy and love.

Now that my sisters and I are a few decades into being adults, my parents can see the fruit come to bear from the seeds they planted in our lives. Now that some of us are parents ourselves, they are able to reminiscence about when they were in our shoes. They were working and sacrificing almost continuously to provide us as much joy and opportunity as they could.

It was selfless and hard, yet it was the best time of my mom’s life. It was filled with purpose and generosity. It was full of love and patience. They had all kinds of heavy responsibility and yet it was still the best time of their lives.

On my son’s 5th birthday, I spent the quiet morning before he woke and reflected on the last five years. And I feel the same way that my mom does. My son is high energy and at times strong willed, but he also brings me more joy than I ever could have dreamed. He challenges me, makes me grow, always finding a new way to test my authority. But he loves me tremendously and gives me the sweetest, and most tender moments filled with pure joy and innocence that only young children still possess.

He has renewed my ability to find joy in the simplest of blessing that life brings.  Whether it is a silly dance song, a train, or a beautiful sunrise, he lights up with glee and it is absolutely infectious.

Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just like my parents, it is the best time of my life.

Fatherhood is a Tremendous Responsibility

Fatherhood is a Tremendous Responsibility

Fatherhood is a commitment.  Raising boys to become independent men who add value to this world?  That’s the task at hand?  Gulp.  Right now there are some days I struggle to make sure they’re fed and clothed.  Nothing in my life has presented such a challenge.

The decision to become a father requires a commitment on many fronts: time, energy, emotion, finances, and love.  The primary period of responsibility in fatherhood lasts about 20 years while children are still under your direct care.  Only marriage and mortgages appear to last longer.

Children require a continued sacrifice to meet their physical needs of food, shelter, and clothing.  While this seems obvious to most, the actual time, energy, and money required to meet the needs of children is astonishing.  Our groceries bills have doubled.  We spend more time cooking, doing dishes, laundry, and bathing our children.  Our house is now bigger which means means a bigger mortgage, higher property taxes, more water, gas, and electricity being consumed as well. Sometimes the time and energy required to meet these primary needs takes everything out of us.

One of the basic responsibilities as a father is to protect your children.  Mine are still young so the dangers I face now are obvious but require almost constant attention.  Don’t stick your finger in the outlet! Don’t eat the legos! Don’t run in the street! Those are all common phrases I repeat regularly.  Sometimes I feel like a broken record, all just to keep my children alive.  As they grow older I envision the protection they need will require a more subtle approach to compensate for the decreasing lack of direct control we have as parents.  

As a father, I am also responsible for developing my children’s character.   I need to educate and coach them, challenge and discipline them, encourage and comfort them.   Their character is the area that can take the largest emotional drain and persistence as a father.  I feel that I spent at least two years teaching my oldest son to use his manners before it really started to catch on.

Fatherhood is also expensive.  In addition to the cost of the basic needs already mentioned, there are costs for education, sports, lessons, toys, books, day care, health insurance, and medical care (did I mention already that I have two boys?).  All of those add up to very significant sum of money, even if you maintain a relatively minimal lifestyle.  With this financial commitment comes a decrease in financial flexibility, especially if you don’t live below your means.  

While all of these responsibilities as a father are important, the most significant one is love.  True love for your children will provide you the energy and patience required to deliver on all of your duties.  It will direct you to mold their characters to grow into the people that you aspire them to be.  It will also allow your children to flourish in life.  If you truly you take the responsibility of fatherhood to heart, you cannot leave love out of the equation.  

All of these responsibilities are real and require a big commitment, but fortunately they come with an incredible opportunity as well.